Posts Tagged With: levels

Skills, Revisited

I figured this out in the shower this morning, so you know it’s a good idea.

I’ve been puzzling over how to make the skills work really well within my game, especially with the combat-XP system.  I think I finally have something that is simple, easy to implement, and easy to remember.

Skills advance by use.  Some things which used to be skills are now class features, namely Open Lock, Climb, Hide & Move Silently (now called Stealth); Spot and Listen have combined into Perception, and the function of several “interaction” skills has been taken over by the Conflict! system.

At first level, you may choose a number of skills to be “proficient” in (equal to the number of ranks you would have received upon a level up).  You get a +2 bonus to all of these skills.  You may only be proficient in class skills.

Making skill checks:

Each skill is tied to a particular Ability Score.  When you make a skill check, roll a d20.  If the result is less than or equal to your ability score plus proficiency and experience bonuses, you succeed.  If the roll is higher than your ability plus proficiency and experience bonuses, you fail.  Particularly difficult tasks may impose penalties on your ability score, but typical activities will not.

Skills and Experience bonuses:

Each successful use of a skill earns one SXP, or skill experience point.  When you have accumulated 7 SXP in one skill which is also a class skill, you receive an experience bonus (+1) to future checks in that skill. Further increases require 7+(current XP Bonus) more successful uses of the skill.  Remember lucky number 7.  For cross-class skills, double the number of successful uses that must be achieved (14 for +1, 16 for +2, etc.)

Compound Checks:

Some activities are more complex than simply using a single skill.  In these instances, a series of skill checks may be required, possibly in conjunction with straight ability checks.  If any of the checks fail, the task may not be completed successfully, but may be partially completed, depending on circumstances.

Opposed Checks:

Opposed skill or ability checks work much as they did before, with d20 rolls adding all bonuses (including ability modifiers).  Higher result wins.

The table of current skills can be found on the Obsidian Portal wiki.  For everyone who are not my players, I have very little business telling you what skills to use or not.  Go crazy.

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Combat Experience and Levels

My current XP award system is based solely on combat experience.  Damage dealt and damage received gain XP.  Loot gained from combat also awards XP.  The numbers aren’t important for this discussion, because I want to discuss what levels are, and what they do for characters.  They mostly work, but with a combat-based XP system (one that gives different awards for different contributions, no less) there are (it has been pointed out to me) certain shortcomings.

My first and biggest point is this:  going up a level makes you more effective in combat.  You get more HP (resistance to dieing from attack), you get better saves, and you get a better attack bonus.  You get better at combat.  You get better at not letting the other guy stick his sword in your belly, and get better at putting yours into his.  This does not come from talking your way out of fights, this does not come by way of picking locks and running up walls.  Training and sparring only go so far.  You do the same sword drills as the 50 year old grizzled veteran fighter.  You have read all the training manuals.  You have the same head knowledge as the other guys as to the physics of the whole “killing other people” business.  But until you have been on the field of battle, surrounded by madness and blood and death and fear, you will never become better at it than those who live there.  You must experience combat to survive combat, to win combat, and to get better at not getting killed.  Your sword arm must know exactly how to maneuver the blade to slide between the plates of armor on the other guy, and it must do so in a timely manner.  You must learn to lean away at precisely the right time to turn that killing thrust into a glancing blow. War is a crucible. That is why I really like the XP-for-damage model.

However, there is a problem.  In 3.5, there is a certain aspect to characters called “skills.”  Many of you are familiar with this concept.  Leveling up also gives you a certain number of skill points, so that you can get better at doing things other than killing things.  By now you should be able to see my dilemma.  What about those characters who don’t do so hot at combat, but do other awesome things like pluck some strings attached to a bit of wood which makes strangers throw coins at your feet?  How does killing things while denying those same things the opportunity to do the same to you make you a better lutist?  Answer:  Realistically, it doesn’t, and I agree, shouldn’t.

So I’ve come up with at least part of a solution.  I plan to remove the skill point portion of leveling up from the “combat level,” and make it a category of it’s own.

That sure dropped a boatload of silence on the audience, didn’t it?SkillUse

Moving along.  Using skills, unlike combat experience, is much less intense.  You can practice to get substantially better at those things. In fact, many of the skills are meant to represent things that are practiced to improve.  Some of them, I would argue, are not so much (how do you teach yourself to hear better?), but for the most part they are.  How does this translate into a “noncombat level,” you ask?  Like so:  For each successful use of an appropriate skill (list to be given later), you place one tally mark next to that skill.  When you have accumulated enough tally marks (for the sake of argument let’s say seven), you get a +1 experience bonus to that skill.  Now, erase all those tally marks.  To get another bonus, you will need 8 successful uses of the skill (7 + the current experience bonus). See table.

Now, it doesn’t have as much bite as a level, but it does reflect a more realistic model of skill development.  And that’s kinda what I am going for.  I hope I’m getting closer.  So anyhow, now skills get better as you use them, and that independently of combat levels.  Combat wins combat expertise.  Skill use wins skill expertise.

But now it’s your turn.  What more could I do to make it better?  (Players in my campaign especially invited to comment)

Categories: Campaign, Discussion, Rules | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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