Monday, November 7, 2011

Rolling high (oh... it's about skills)

Ze Rules

We play an (extremly houseruled) version of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. As an (original) optional rule one might decide to play with skills. It reads like this:

"All 1st level characters start with four "blank"
skills, often called slots. (When a skill is chosen,
it stops being a slot.)
Characters who have an Intelligence of more
than 12 start with more than four skill slots. If
the character has an Intelligence of 13-15, he
gets 1 additional skill slot; if his Intelligence is
16-17, he gets 2 additional skill slots; and if his
Intelligence is 18, he gets 3 additional skill slots.
Different things determine which skills are
chosen to fill the character's slots. The player
may choose some or all of the skills to fill his
available skill slots. Or the DM may insist that
the player select certain skill choices appropriate
for the character background the player has chosen." (Rules Cyclopedia, p. 81)

So each skill is based on one of the abilities and to succeed  in a given task related to a skill one has to roll under that ability score. When improving skills, a player gets an additional +1 to the ability score every time he chooses to take the skill. And you get every 4 levels a new skill point to distribute. That's it in a nutshell.

What's not to like?

It's one of those things the 3rd Edition DID get right: always roll high. You do it when you attack something, you do it when you have to make a saving throw. Only ability and skill checks have to be low to get it done. I don't like it.

What's to like?

That the skill is nothing else but the actual ability, not based on a bonus. It's not a completely new system but takes the core rules and adds some flavour.

You start with 4 skill slots and get one more every 4 levels after that? That's nice! Because if it doesn't happen too often, it doesn't get to important. The ability scores are able to manage most challenges, after all.

What did we do with it?


  • Every skill check is 1d20 + ability, the aim is 20 or higher for an easy task, 25 or higher for a moderate task  and 30 or higher for something really difficult.
  • If a player doesn't have the right skill, the check is 1d20 + halve the appropriate ability score against the difficulty.
  • Instead of getting a +1 for taking a skill two times, the players get a +5 to the ability (and again +5 for the third time, etc.).
  • A roll of 1 is always a failure, a roll of 20 is always a success. Like it should be, I might add.


It's a simple but flexible solution and it gets the job done.

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