Saturday, September 28, 2013

Endurance and Skill Resolution System (Redux)

I just want to give this a clear write-up, adding some of the newer ideas regarding the system. After all, writing rules in a concise way makes them so much more accessible (and I have to admit, it's something I have to work on). This is about Endurance and skills (which are connected). I'm pretty happy with how those house rules work by now, but I never came around to write a short summary with all the changes and connections like I did for Weapon Mastery (Basic) a few weeks ago. I'll also link to the older versions of this house rules, but this here will be complete. So let's try this again...

Endurance and Exertion

Characters have CON -4 as Endurance (the endurance skill changes that, see below). Monsters and NPCs have 4+HD as Endurance*.

Basically every action a character could make, costs 1 point Endurance (a fight, an ability check, a skill check, etc.). Travel costs Endurance per mile depending on terrain** and weather. Only a full nights sleep or some sort of magical healing will recover those lost Endurance points.

Strenuous actions that need consecutive die rolls (like fighting or fleeing) exert a character faster. During the strenuous action they loose 1 point Endurance every round due to exertion. As they reach 0 Endurance, they can force themselves further with a successful CON-check (-4) or a skill-check (Endurance).

With zero Endurance a character counts as Exhausted. He is last in initiative and (playing with Rules Cyclpedia) his Weapon Mastery is down to Basic. MUs have to make an Int-check when casting or the spell (mana, whatever) is lost. Every round after that gives a cumulative -1 to AC, to-hit and check until it reaches the characters negative Endurance value (so if a character had 7 Endurance, his negative Endurance value would be -7).

After that the character goes down, breathing hard and only able to crawl.

The accumulated Endurance loss counts as basic exertion (a character had a busy day with already 4 actions, so for the next strenuous action the Endurance countdown starts with a -4). As soon as the strenuous action is over, the Endurance loss due to exertion is regenerated and all the character lost, is the one point because of the action (so the busy character in the example above would be at a -5 after the next fight).

If a strenuous action were to happen immediately after another strenuous action (fleeing after a fight, etc.), the DM is to decide how much breath the characters were able to catch again. An easy method to simulate this would be a roll with a d8 (or higher) with a threshold of 6 (lower that threshold by 1 for every 2 points a character is below zero). If the character rolls below 6, their Exertion is already recovered, if they roll 6 or more, that's the number of Endurance they had recovered before they have to exert themselves again***.

[Edit]: In addition to the damage due to a critical hit, the victim also looses 1d12 Endurance.

It should be very easy for a DM to keep track of those numbers for the players.

Skill Resolution System

Gathering skills is handled like the Rules Cyclopedia suggests:
"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." (Rules Cyclopedia, p. 81)
Characters get another skill slot every 4 levels. Skills are connected to ability scores. Which ability score is relevant at the time depends on the circumstances the skill is used under (a magic-user could intimidate another magic-user using INT instead of STR, etc.). The basic skill resolution is:


Unlearned skill use will get a penalty of -4 or more. At best players are unaware of the difficulty they're rolling against.

Skill checks and Exertion

If a skill check is not successful a player might decide to exert his character to get there. The difference between the failed roll and the difficulty (say the difficulty was 30, the characters ability score was 13 and the rolled a 5, exerting himself will cost him 12 points of Endurance to make it). This will cost him one additional point Endurance to the one for the action itself. This applies to every skill check (even searching a library or reading can be exerting).

Here, too, a character can force himself below zero Endurance with a successful check on CON (as the skill, CON -4 without the skill). See above for further penalties.

Skill Mastery

The abilities/skills a Thief already has are: Backstab (melee), Backstab (ranged), Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (moving, hiding, keeping a low profile or doing something like picking a lock in total silence...) and Sabotage.Using the skill system of the Rules Cyclopedia, every class has access to all skills but backstab (which even for the thief is only activated if chosen for skill mastery). 

At character creation a player of a thief may now choose 4 abilities/skills for Skill Mastery. So skills like Disguise or Alchemy are, too, relevant for Skill Mastery if the thief chooses to do so (but backstab is only activated if chosen, which might be done at higher levels, of course).

Basic Skill Mastery is one additional D6 either for the skill check or as backstab damage. Every 3 levels a Thief gets one more point Skill Mastery to distribute. Progression is: Basic +1D6, Skilled +1D8, Expert +1D10, Master+1D12 and Grand Master +1D20.

Echo applies.

So I hope this helps in understanding how I integrated those rules into D&D without bloating the system. The example I wrote about killing a horse should be much more transparent now, too (it's still pretty accurate, the only changes I made here were for characters...). It should be compatible with most (if not all) D&D variants up to (but not including) 4E.

A complete list of skills is on my to-do list.

*As an alternative one could roll a d6 instead the 4, interpreting the result as something between -1 and 5 to simulate activities of the day of an encounter. So it'd be 1d6 + HD...

**Suggested Endurance loss per mile:

Travel Mode      Trail    Clear   Hills   Mountains Desert

Foot              1/3      1/2     1/1       1/1      1/1
On a horse        1/12     1/10    1/10      1/8      1/4

Horse, riding     1/6      1/4     1/3       1/2      1/1
Horse, war        1/5      1/3     1/2       1/2      1/1

*** Using a higher die (a d10, a d12 or a d20) would allow for a higher regeneration, but the chances to roll below 6 get worse the higher the die.


  1. Interesting. But it's a lot of bookkeeping. For each character you need to track total endurance points and current endurance points.

    I would rather see a more lightweight system. Like every 5 rounds of combat every one needs to make an endurance check or be Exhausted.

    Also every 10 miles walked make a check.

    Anyway, I like the idea. I'm picturing the party after a gruelling march being ambushed and having to fight while exhausted. Or having to fight opponents on higher ground and getting -2 on their endurance checks...

  2. Thanks, Billy! And yes, you'd have to do that. But most of the time you might not even write it down and it only gets interesting if the loss due to exertion spikes for some reason and the count goes below zero. Most of the time (depending how often you let players roll for activities and how many players you have, of course) you know the number of actions a player did between two phases of rest without writing it down. Most fights, for example, don't take 5 rounds. All in all it only gets relevant in high tension moments.

    But there is another reason I'll keep this more fractured (if elaborate) method. If a player is able to cash in Endurance to be successful in a skill-check, you circumvent an issue that plagues most skill systems: you don't need a successful roll anymore to succeed in a task. It means you don't get results like "You can't climb any further..." or "You find nothing.". So not being successful in a skill-check will have a more reasonable result, like a natural 1 and exhaustion and the player is able to control the outcome a bit more or even interpret the result with a bit more information than he'd have without it. And it directly translates. It's the sole reason It's worth monitoring Endurance.

    Plus, as long as the bookkeeping is only something the DM has to do (and not much at that), I'm really fine with it. Wouldn't expect my players to do this, though.

    You know, the question how much bookkeeping is necessary (or needed) in a game doesn't come up very often. How do you handle it during a session? What's to much?

    1. I suppose it really depends on the DM. I'm notoriously absent-minded, so rules that "most of the time you might not even write it down" I tend to just forget 90% of the time and then only remember afterwards. Like the "Winning" bonus in WFRP, for example. Or the alien egg that one of the PCs picked up and I was going to have it hatch in their pack in the middle of a big encounter, but I forgot, and then the next session I couldn't even find my note with who picked it up(I was so disappointed--was going to be so nasty)!

      Bookkeeping comes up for me all the time in combat--not the small ones, so much, but the big ones. Keeping track of who is fighting which monster and how much damage everyone has taken is a real challenge for me. I'll have it all written down and then suddenly, 5 rounds into the battle, I'll realize I made a mistake somewhere along the line and it no longer makes sense. It's usually not a big deal since the players also aren't keeping track of every single enemy, so no one notices, but...not ideal.

      So for me personally, I use checks over bookkeeping whenever I can manage it(like when Grim had to climb hand-over-hand over a long distance, I had him make 3 increasingly difficult checks)

  3. Okay, that actually explains your ideas pretty well. And I know that problem. Had the same thing happening to me with the poisoned deck of cards in Rappan Athuk. They just wouldn't touch them without gloves and then it got forgotten. I can be pretty scatter-brained in our sessions, too. And "checks over bookkeeping" is a good solution for most problems that arise in the game anyway. Thanks for clearing that up!