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Friday, August 2, 2013

Troll Questions: Non-Weapon Skills

Another post on the top ten troll questions.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

No. Not as commonly understood. They shouldn't even get weapon skills.

As discussed in "Should thief be a class?", I have some issues with the way skills are commonly modeled. If we were to rate skill with percentages, such as "Cooking 50%", how I would like to see that number interpreted is:
  1. Cut the time of ordinary cooking tasks to 50% of normal;
  2. Cut the ingredients needed to prepare standard quality fare to 50%;
  3. Allow cooking with substandard equipment (50% quality) or 50% of needed equipment;
  4. Cut the risk of accidents (in situations that require a roll) by 50%;
  5. Give the cook an edge in a competition with another cook with a lower rating.
In practice, though, I wouldn't use a percentile rating at all. Basically, I've modified the Secondary Skills of AD&D to be broad backgrounds, like "Sailor" or "Chef". Having a background means you know how to do anything someone with that background would likely know; in cases where there is a roll, having an appropriate background may be worth +1, and in cases where there is a competition, the person with the most experience gets a +1 (and that's only if the competitors are otherwise evenly matched.)

The beauty of this system is not only that it reduces the amount of skill mechanics necessary, but also it can be completely dissociated from character creation. You do not need to explain how to allocate skills; just assume that when a player says "I'm a fighter", their character's background is "fighter", but if the player says "I'm a fighter who dropped out of the priesthood," you can ask the player to write down how many years they were in the priesthood.

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