Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, Skills. Don't kill me

Whether to have 'skills' in your game is a notoriously contentious subject.  I won't revisit the argument, but for my LL game I wanted to have a simple guide to deciding common situations where player description alone might not suffice.  I also wanted to allow for a somewhat greater degree of individualization for the characters while avoiding an "ever-escalating DC" kind of situation like one has with third edition.  What follows is the system I came up with.  It's based on Venger Satanis' system, but is less "Fate-y".
The only effect on the LL classes is that the thief skills table is junked (yay) and replaced with a larger-than-normal amount of skills for those characters.  You might make a 'thief' with none of the classic thief skills, so really they become more like 'Specialists' than anything.  
Characters can have three levels of competence in a skill: skilled, superb, and world-class.  Each level costs one point.  Specialists and halflings start with five points to spend and can purchase skilled or superb level training.  Characters in other classes start with three points to spend and are limited to the ‘skilled’ rating.  
As characters advance in level they get additional points to spend--specialists get one point every odd-numbered level, halflings every third level and other classes one per five levels. 
Resolution mechanic: “Making a skill roll” involves rolling a pool of d6’s.  Roll and note the highest result, see below for how you did.  If you got at least one 'six' then extra sixes indicate some degree of exceptional success, if that's even possible.  In all cases the result is basically a guide to how to look at or judge or narrate the attempt and its results.
Everyone always gets one die by default.  You get an extra die for being skilled, another for being superb, and another one if you’re world-class at the skill.  A character with 13 or more in the skill’s controlling attribute gets an extra die. A hard task subtracts one die while a stupendously hard task subtracts two.  Having excellent tools or a good “storyside” rationale adds a die.  If you end up with zero dice to roll you roll 2d6 and take the lower one.
                6 = total success                  
                5 = success, possibly with complications
                4 = partial success
                3 = failure, perhaps with a silver lining.
                2= failure
                1= critical failure
The skills and their governing attributes:

Knowledge: (specify)
Profession: (specify)
Sleight of Hand
Skills with two attributes listed are amenable to different approaches (intuitive vs. analytical, etc.).  Use the higher of the two attributes for to see if you get the extra die for a high stat.

Skill Descriptions
Athletics – allows climbing, tightrope walking, tumbling past enemies, breaking down doors and similar feats of strength, etc.  Climbing is at 10’ per round, frequency of check depends on the surface (smooth wall=once per round, typical wall once per turn, mountains once per day).
Bushcraft – allows tracking, orienteering, ‘survival’ tasks, and animal handling.
Diplomacy – Only applies if a reaction roll is being made anyway. Grants a bonus on reaction rolls of +1 per level of skill.
Heal – allows restoring of one hit point on a roll of four or five, 1+1 per six on a roll of six.  Can be used after each fight.
Intimidate – can substitute for normal reaction rolls, though perhaps with lasting resentment.
Linguistics – being skilled grants literacy.  Superb or better grants the ability to puzzle out a bit of any language encountered.  This allows for scroll use—spells of level 3-5 are hard (deduct a die).  Higher level spells deduct two dice. 
Mechanician – Covers opening locks, disabling traps, and general low-tech mechanical operation or repair tasks.
Knowledge: various – there are numerous specializations possible here.  Some of particular use to adventurers:
Arcana – knowledge of magical items, spells, and magical paraphernalia. Includes knowing about monsters who are creations of magic or which cast spells/spell-like effects.
Religion – knowledge of various religions.  Includes knowing about the undead.
The Planes—knowledge of the various planes and extra-planar creatures such as demons and elementals.
Area—the ‘area’ can be anywhere, but by default is “the region we start in”.  Covers geography, politics, and common monsters found in the area.
Science—knowledge of the scientific marvels of the past.  And the not-so marvels.  Includes knowledge of robots or similar techno-creatures.
Other areas of knowledge are certainly possible.
Perception/Search – Covers search, spot, perception, finding secret doors, all that sort of thing.
Professions – These represent formal training at a specified trade or occupation.  Only a thief can have two professions to start with; starting members of other classes can have no more than one.  Some of the more interesting professions for adventurers: 
Actor – This governs any sort of disguise attempt, and is the skill used to tell convincing lies.  You can acquire either of these skills separately without it being a ‘profession’.  This is a CHA skill, unlike most professions.
Animal Training – Can teach a domestic animal one 'trick' per skill die.  (Attack, bear burden, etc.)  Wild animals, one less.  Hostile or fierce animals, two less.
Captain – Allows one to operate and repair watercraft, navigate, and manage the crew. 
Fencing Master—Training of combatants (often in swordcraft but not always).  Also grants the fencing master +1 to hit with a single type of weapons (melee or missile).  Superb level skill grants +1 with the other weapon type, and world-class converts the bonus with one type to +2.
Trapper/Leatherworker—Covers skinning and preserving of creatures and creature bits, setting simple traps, taxidermy, and turning hides to leather.
Armorer—Production and repair of armor and shields.  You’ll know if one you handle is magical, and have a good idea what plus it is.
Assassin—Covers poison use and striking for increased damage from behind or upon surprising an opponent. (x2 if level 0-4,  x3 if level 5-8,  x4 if higher level).
Weaponsmith—Production and repair of weapons.  You’ll know if one you handle is magical, and have a good idea what plus it is.
Less adventurous professions include: Farmer, Lumberjack/Carpenter, Miner/Stonemason, Jeweler/Gemcutter, Alchemist, Courtier, Lawyer, Scribe/Accountant, Artist, Engineer/Architect, etc.   
Ride – Anyone can ride a trained horse overland.  You’ll need the skill to employ a mount in combat or to control an untrained mount.  Controlling exotic or flying mounts is a hard task.  If riders are chasing each other (and have the same movement rate) ride rolls determine if pursuit is successful.
Sleight of Hand – Pickpocketing, shell games, prestidigitation, hiding things on your person, etc. 
Stealth – A roll of four or five succeeds but allows perception rolls to spot the sneak.  A roll of six just works.  This task becomes harder (deduct dice) in well-lit or open areas.  Wearing armor heavier than leather also imposes a penalty—one die for scale or chainmail, two dice for anything heavier.
Swim – The die roll x 10 is the percent of your actual movement that you get when swimming—a roll of one means you start drowning.  Roll once per round in combat, once per turn otherwise.  Note that even a modest amount of clothing and gear gives a one die penalty on swim rolls.

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