Streamlined Skill Rolls

Sentaigrehsk Affliction Spec for World of Warcraft patch 3.0
‘Affliction Mach 3, My World of Warcraft spec in January 2009

I have a really bad habit.

I have numerousf little creative projects I’m working on at any given time. I enjoy it, but I always overestimate the time I have available to work on them. I tend to stress a lot about devoting enough time to each project, and I end up forgetting to make time to rest. More importantly, I don’t make time to play games, or read stories, because it takes time away from creating them. But working without pausing to recharge my creative energies quickly reduces me to a withered husk. Seriously, it’s gross.

The worst part of it is that I don’t even get any more work done when I push myself beyond my limits like this. I just procrastinate a lot at my desk, re-watching JonTron videos for the billionth time (Bro, seriously? Seriously bro? Make more videos) or bothering my ladyfriend while she’s trying to study or draw. And since I spend the whole time feeling guilty about not working, these deviations from my work don’t actually rejuvenate me at all. They just wear me down more. It’s a stupid thing to do, and I somehow never realize I’m doing it until its been going on for at least a few days.

I recently realized I’d been at it again, so the other day I closed all my browser windows, cleared all my notes off of my desk, and sat down on the floor to read the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG core rulebook, which I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. Shortly after I started reading, I got to the chapter on skills, which opens with this excerpt:

”A character’s 0-level occupation determines the basic skills he can use. If the player can logically role-play the connection between his occupation and a skill in a way that the character’s background supports the skill in question, then his character can make what is called a trained skill check.”

Without reading another word, I slammed the book closed, and grabbed my notebook, because I knew how I would build a skill system based on that starting point. Once I had written mine down, I finished reading the skills chapter in DCC to confirm that I hadn’t just come up with the same thing they had. I think it’s different enough that I can legitimately call it “mine” without feeling unethical. Particularly considering I used something similar to the basic concept when I made Twittertop RPG. And that was months before I had a copy of DCC.

At character creation, each player should choose a profession. This is what they did in their life before they became an adventurer. A list of examples might include farmer, merchant, school teacher, sailor, scribe, or blacksmith. The profession is not limited to those, but it should be something similar. “King” would not be an acceptable choice. A good rule would be that if a profession cannot be easily found in a small town, it is probably too specialized to be selected.

During play, if a player would like to attempt something which would not be covered by the skill-set they have from their class (such as navigate a ship by the stars, accurately evaluate the price of a painting, or repair a broken sword) , they may argue that they know how to perform this task based on their profession. If the GM agrees, then the character may attempt the task with a “trained” skill check. If the task being attempted is not covered by the character’s profession, then they can still attempt an “untrained” skill check.

Both trained and untrained attempts have four levels of difficulty, which are determined by the GM. They are Easy, Challenging, Difficult, and Impossible. Note that these four levels are not necessarily the same between trained and untrained characters. If a farmer wants to plant a field, that would be an easy task, while for an untrained character it would be a challenging one. While navigating by the stars would be a challenging task for a sailor, but an impossible one for—say–a baker.

If a task is easy, it can be completed without any roll. If a task is impossible, it is failed automatically. For challenging or difficult tasks, a D20 is rolled against the appropriate difficulty number, which is determined by the character’s level.

Papers & Pencils Streamlined Skills Chart - Beta

This chart would be universal, and used by any character regardless of their class. So each character would have a total of three numbers associated with their skills, which only need to be updated according to the chart’s progression as the character levels. No bonuses or ability scores need be factored in, though circumstance bonuses & penalties may apply.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Streamlined Skill Rolls”

  1. I love this! I am a very story-based rpg player and this fits what I want from skills perfectly. Plus it gives the players something from which to roleplay their character. I’m in favor of anything that requires characters have a more in-depth backstory.

    1. It’s funny, because it sounds as though we have entirely different goals. But I’m glad this mechanic can work for both of us!

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