... now with 35% more arrogance!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Eliminating Ability and Skill Checks

Someone reminded me I have to fix some of my old classes. For example, I took down my version of the Thief class. I'd like to repost it, but I have to tackle the way ability scores are used, since my new goal is to eliminate as many bonuses as possible, focusing instead on whether an action is automatic, forbidden, or allows a save in a bad situation.

Abilities and Rolls

Assuming we are using situation rolls instead of skill rolls -- rolls to see what happens in a situation, rather than whether an action succeeds or not -- we eliminate a lot of useless rolling. It is assumed that if anyone could do something, like tie a knot or open a door, then the character can, too. If a person can do something with proper training, like sail a ship, a character with that training can do it, too. And if there is something no one can do, even with training, like walk on water, then the character can't do it. No rolls are needed to see if a character can do any of these things. What we want to test for are two things:
  1. Things that go wrong in iffy situations, like a frayed rope breaking during a climb. Call this a risk.
  2. Improving an already bad situation, like catching a ledge as you fall. Call this a save.
I use 5+ on 1d6 for both rolls, except for magic saves, which use the well-known d20-based save tables. But we can eliminate more useless rolls by using ability scores as gatekeepers to determine whether there is even a roll or not.

An Average risk is something that might go wrong for an average person. For example, crossing a slippery ledge. An above average person doesn't need to roll; so, we just need to decide what ability applies (Dexterity) and skip rolling for anyone with a score of 13+. Everyone else rolls.

A High risk is likely to go wrong for anyone. For example, climbing a crumbling cliff face. Everyone needs to roll, except for those with a High score (15+); the High Dex characters can grab another handhold as the first gives.

A Low risk is unlikely to go wrong for most people. Most of the time, you wouldn't even note a Low risk, but if a character has another problem, like limping on an injured leg, you might call for a roll when crossing a rope bridge if the character also has a below average score (8 or less.) This is more likely to matter with puzzles (Low Int or Wisdom means a clue might be missed) or social situations (making an etiquette blunder.)

You could, of course, roll 3d6 to rate any given situation, either during play or when designing an adventure, and then test anyone whose score was less than or equal to that rating. But in practice, you really only need High, Average, and occasionally Low. Keeping the number of options small makes the decision easy:
  • Do you want almost everyone to complete this challenge, unless they have some other disadvantage? Then it is Low risk.
  • Do you want almost everyone to be at risk, except for a lucky few? Then it is High risk.
  • Anything else is Average risk.
This also comes into play when an action is normally only possible with training. You normally would not allow someone new to sailing to sail a small boat. But there was a time when no one knew how to sail, and some people figured it out. Let High Intelligence characters sail the boat without problem unless there's another factor involved (boat damaged by an attack,) and everyone else gets a risk of something going wrong. This is going to come into play in my revamped classes.

Background Abilities

How do characters get training? They start out with some from the culture they were born into, and the profession they start with. A Viking sailor knows anything a Viking or a sailor knows. For judging when to make rolls, you can substitute the number of years a character has been in a culture or profession in place of an ability score (using age for experience in your first profession, until you switch professions.) There's still no skill roll involved, just another method of eliminating risks. A sailor with 20 years experience on the sea is not going to roll to avoid capsizing a boat, although an attack or magic spell might still capsize it.

If something goes wrong, having the right experience may allow a save. If a longship is damaged in a storm, a Viking sailor's makeshift repairs might keep it from taking on too much water. Again, keep the decision down to two choices: is it an Average risk (Int 9 or 9 years experience gives a chance of saving the ship) or a High risk (score or experience of 13+ needed to give a chance of saving the ship.)

Experience also matters in competitions between professionals. Having more experience than an opponent gives you an edge in a bake-off, singing contest, or other professional exhibition. If a player figures out some way to apply a professional skill in combat or to some other adventuring situation, it can provide a mild bonus. For example, 15 years as a gladiator might mean a +1 bonus to attack rolls when wrestling opponents with Strength or Dexterity below 15, or +2 if the opponent's scores are half that (8 or less.)

Next, I will talk about revamping the classes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

No comments:

Post a Comment