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Friday, 28th September, 2012, 02:17 AM #11
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 03:09 AM #12
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 03:25 AM #13
Superhero (Lvl 15)
While I also agree that bonuses to rolls should be applied as makes sense for a background, regardless of the skill list, I had another idea. What if the skill list was broken into different parts.
Backgrounds would come with adventuring skills, which is basically the skill list we have now.
Then, for those who want more, there could be a cultural skills module. It would include the craft, perform, and other non-adventuring skills and have it's own pool of skill points.
Of course, much of this could be well handled if backgrounds and traits were expanded upon.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 04:08 AM #14
Lama (Lvl 13)
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 04:13 AM #15
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Lets say you want to make a village blacksmith (or maybe his apprentice) who picked up a forge hammer and fought back against orcs attacking the village. And when everyone around him died, he started adventuring, but still remembers his blacksmithing roots.
A player wants to make this character in 3E. So they... well, lessee. They're a fighter. They don't see this guy as a genius, but he's not dumb. So they put a 13 into Int. They pump 4 points into Craft (Smithing). Oh wait, that's not a craft skill. They put 4 points into Craft (Weaponsmithing) and 4 points into Craft(armorsmithing). They then beg the DM to let them use Armorsmithing as kind of a general smithing for things like nails, horseshoes, y'know, things people use in day-to-day life. The DM being kind, agrees.
So the armorsmith decides to try and figure out what he can do. A suit of banded mail costs 250 GP. That's 2,500 SP. The DC on banded mail is 16. So if he succeeds, he will score around 16*(16-25, average 20.5) points, or 328. So on average he will take 7.6 attempts. Of course the odds of him failing and wrecking everything are failing by 5 or more, so 11 or below. That's a 30% chance of failure.
So he can take a feat to get +3, but he still fails 15% of his rolls, and that's highly likely to screw him in 1 out of 2 armor suits he makes or so. So he jimmies things around and puts a 16 in Int, and now he can make a reasonably basic suite of armor.
Of course he's basically screwed his entire character over in multiple ways to pick up the ability to be a blacksmith who can make a goddamn suit of armor at the first level.
How many 3E characters have a background like "studied all my life at a wizards school?" Or "Wandering farmboy who made good?" How many of them actually have an intricate background that shows up on the skill sheet?
Very few, because you PAY A PENALTY for having an interesting character history.
The 3E skill system ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES roleplaying, by making players who take skills that reflect their background suffer in comparison to those who do not.
At least the 4E skill system is neutral on the entire matter, besides the idea that the master wizard in the tower who has studied arcane phenomena his entire life probably has around the same check as the guy who just graduated, because all skills are +5. That's not quite as destructive to roleplaying as rewarding people who take interesting skills with gimp characters.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 04:52 AM #16
Lama (Lvl 13)
Second, you see skills as a Background only thing, I see them as a reflection of an ever evolving character that is "alive". If my character grew up on a farm of course he or she will know how to handle animals, he or she need not be a great expert by first level, but still will know it. Personally I've never felt my characters are specially gimped by taking interesting skills. I've even made the "sin" of having book dumb Sorcerers with zero ranks on Arcane knowledge or Spellcraft, or Paladins without Ride, or Rogues without open locks.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 05:09 AM #17
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
I want to make a Rogue who became a Rogue out of a desire for revenge. See, she was a singer with the voice of an angel, who was in strong demand. The nobles would pay to see her performances, the local bardic college had her on as a teacher and example for students. Then a crazed fan slashed her face with a knife when he thought she had rejected him. Her voice was unaffected, but the wound scarred terribly. And suddenly the nobles went elsewhere. The bardic college didn't invite her back. One of the bards offered the opinion that "maybe you can perform with a mask... it's so distracting."
Infuriated, she sought revenge. She spent the money she had accumulated searching out a mentor, rejecting many who simply wanted her gold and would teach her nothing. Until she finally found a crusty old thief who had the fastest knifework she had ever seen, a bit of a temper, and didn't give two figs for her gold. He wanted to know why she would seek him out, and when she explained he stroked his chin, and looked her over, and said "You'll do."
18 months of brutal training later, he judged her fit to begin. Over the next 6 months the local nobility had a string of disasters. Homes burned. Horses threw their owners. Nobles found their purses missing when they ventured out. And the local bardic college? The teachers were given a subtle poison that destroyed their voice boxes, rendering their speech harsh and raspy.
This ex-singer was finally caught by a wizard, hired by the nobility to track down the source of their troubles. She was slated to be executed, but a last minute intervention saved her. The kingdom's spymaster could see a use for someone like her, so another woman was executed in her place (illusion magic used to give her face the distinctive scar). Now she serves the spymaster, carrying out his goals, although she's hardly his instrument.
Now this is a semi-interesting backstory at least, and kicks the crap out of "grew up on the streets, started thieving because I was hungry, read Oliver Twist for details."
Yet in 3E, I take a knock if I want this character. Her perform skill will never be that great if she dumps charisma (and honestly, she has the personality of a razor blade) and she'll be missing out on a good skill.
That's bad. That's awful. You are punishing a person who put work into a backstory.
You might say "the punishment isn't much." It doesn't matter. Ideally, you should reward players who put the time and effort into crafting a backstory. Minimally, you should at least be neutral to the entire deal. The skill system in 3E actively attacks it. The dumb farmboy (int 8) who puts points into animal handling gives up one of his two skills (assuming he's human) to do so. If he puts more points into Profession: Farmer, he gives them both up. The system PUNISHES him for attempting to actually create his character using it.
This is horrible, and D&D should never return to it. 4E I have to make things up on the fly, but that's fine. I've let people who played an instrument and had Int as their main skill do perform as an Int check (remembering the music and playing it perfectly). I've described it as a mechanically flawless piece of music when they succeed, while a charisma-based bard creates a piece that stirs the audience and moves them (even if he misses a few fingerings compared to the int-based performer). Sure, I have to make this ruling on the fly and the system does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to let me do this, but at least it doesn't actively stand in the way of people who are trying to make an interesting background.
Ideally 5E would actually encourage roleplaying with its backgrounds and skills, but at the least it better not backslide into a system that discourages it.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 05:29 AM #18
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
I think a skill needs to be limited to something that takes appreciable time and practice to develop over and above raw ability. So I agree with the previously stated idea that if you couldn't imagine a character with a high ability score not being able to do something, it's probably better left to an ability check.
Kicking in a door is an ability check (raw strength), picking the lock is a skill.
I also think if a skill represents something all adventurers do at some point (bluff, spot, stealth, and diplomacy come to mind) you need to carefully consider whether it's better to keep those as ability checks or go ahead and make them a skill that can be developed above and beyond an ability check.
Perhaps all characters get a few basic universal skills for free and without any training bonus just to say "adventurers can try these common tasks and improve them with experience". Backgrounds could still have common skills associated with them, granting the +3 training bonus.
I guess for me it has to do with parsimony during game play. In the second play test, it's been awkward for me to say "the rogue needs to make a spot check, everyone else make a wisdom check, and the elf wizard gets advantage" instead of jut saying "everyone make a spot check."
I think lore skills can probably be boiled down to 3: Natural Lore (the world, plants, animals, geology, ecology, etc.), Supernatural Lore (magic, religion, magical beasts, abberations, the planes, undead, devils, demons, etc.), and Cultural Lore (history, politics, art, philosophy, heraldry, customs, etc., as applied to the playable races and perhaps other common or frequently encountered humanoids or sapient beings with a culture).
I also think we should divorce skills from abilities. Intimidate is a good example provided in a previous post. I also think you should be able to, for example, make a Cultural Lore check based on Intelligence to recall some important details about a culture, but also use Cultural Lore with Charisma to interact with someone of another culture to make a good impression.
There may be times where two skills could apply. I'm trying to negotiate an alliance with this tribe of wild elves. It's a charisma based check, but do I use Diplomacy or Cultural Lore? In that case you could say, use the higher skill bonus and also take advantage for having the other skill (advantage could tap the same design space as 3e's skill synergy in a much more elegant way).
Finally, I think we need to consider how often two closely related skills actually occur witthout one another. Stealth became a single skill partially based on the realization that Move Silently and Hide as separate skills were rarely taken in the absence of the other. I think Open Locks and Find/Remove traps are ripe for being collapsed into one skill, "Locksmithing" or some such. I also wouldn't object to Bluff and Diplomacy being combined. Diplomats bluff all the time. And how many uses of Bluff have something to do with trying to convince another party to take or refrain from certain actions (Don't kil me, I can take you to the treasure!)
Anyway those are my thoughts. I'm less concerned with the skill list and more about the underlying principles for how it's constructed at this point. But if I were asked to make one it would probably be:
Sleight of Hand
Last edited by GameDoc; Friday, 28th September, 2012 at 05:35 AM.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 06:34 AM #19
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
How about we use a really basic skill list, and then give each player 3 unique traits. The effects of these traits would be situational. Sometimes +2 to skill checks, sometimes something completely different. The effects would be always out-of-combat, and be based on the features picked.
So for my scarred rogue, how about I pick the following three features:
Voice of an Angel
Pawn of the Spymaster
A farmhand could pick these three features, if he wanted:
A deft hand with animals
Maybe it lets him connect with another person in an inn - both far from home, both reminisce about farms. Maybe he's able to sooth a wild horse when no one expects him too. Maybe his gentle innocence catches the eye of an elven maiden who is traveling and she offers the party some advice and travels with them for a time.
See, this is a system that ENCOURAGES roleplay by rewarding people for being interesting and thinking outside the box.
Friday, 28th September, 2012, 07:05 AM #20
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
@KaiiLurker - I don't want a skill system that means I have to choose 20 out of 90 things that my character can do well. Too much, especially if 10 of my 20 abilities never get used in actual play.
@GreyICE - the reductio ad absurdum of your argument is when I want a wizard who was also the world's greatest swordsman, but the game system doesn't allow me to do it. I'm being "punished"?
Whether or not a "skill" (or in fact any character ability/description) is part of game mechanics or part of open-ended RP surely depends on how often the mechanical use of the skill would actually turn up in play, and make a difference to the game. Hence combat skills are heavily codified and sub-categorised, whilst fishing does not have its own separate rating.
A game world or campaign where "Bardic Voice" has regular impact outside of colour - there are multiple performances, competitions where success/failure is of interest, and changes the path of an adventure - benefits with a skill for it, and players should absolutely have to invest character build into it.
A game world or campaign where an actual roll of the skill might come up a couple of times at most, suffers from the inclusion of the skill. At best it's a waste of space, at worst it blocks expression of fun ideas (such as GreyIce's background), or requires them to spend build resources for RP-only opportunities.
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