Posts Tagged “Skills”
Another photograph of a Lego Blacksmith
Building on what I determined last week, I’d like to move on to actually producing a working craft skill for Pathfinder. I have a lot of ideas for how to proceed, but for this particular system, I’m working within two important design constraints.
- The the resulting craft skill must use the Pathfinder skill system, without circumventing or subverting it. Regardless of how far this system strays from the game’s original design, it must involve rolling a d20, modifying the roll with the character’s skill level, and comparing the results against a DC to determine success or failure.
- Feats should not be necessary to craft an item. If a character invests skill points in a crafting skill, they should receive the benefits of that skill without needing a feat to turn it into a useful ability.
Unfortunately, due to the titanic level disparity between moderately invested, and focused characters, I’ve needed to abandon the third of my original criteria; that the difficulty of crafting an item would be determined by the DC, cost, and crafting time alone. Unfortunately that’s simply not feasible when a focused character at level 10 has the same crafting ability as a moderately invested character at level 20.
Were I to insist that the number rolled represent the absolute quality of the item being crafted, then either:
- The 26-45 range allows characters to craft the highest level weapons, in which case everyone should focus on crafting, because it allows you to make a +5 Vorpal Sword at level 10.
- The 26-45 range allows characters to craft weapons appropriate for level 10, in which case no one should ever bother with crafting, because it requires a lot of investment, and stops being useful at mid level.
- A middle ground is attempted, which would only mitigate the problem slightly; not fix it.
None of these alternatives are acceptable to me. Which is why I think the system should also take the character’s level into account. By limiting the power of crafted magic items based on level, I keep the focused character from leaping too far ahead of the game, without simultaneously forcing the moderately invested character to fall miles behind. Both heavily focused characters and moderately invested character will always be able to make the same items as one another (assuming they are the same level). But while a focused character will almost always succeed in making a magic item on their first try, a moderately invested character will likely fail a few times first, perhaps creating cursed items.
In Pathfinder, weapons and armor can have two different kinds of magical properties. There is the common numerical bonus, which ranges from +1 to +5; and the special ability, which can take many forms. Perhaps it’s a “Flaming Burst” weapon, or “Shadowskin” armor. These special bonuses each have a numerical equivalent listed in the book, to help determine the item’s pricing and the maximum power of the weapon. For example, “Arrow Catching” armor is equivalent to +1, while “Spell Resistance 19″ is equivalent to +5. Each item can have a maximum of +10 effective bonus (only five of which may take the form of a numerical bonus). This is all standard Pathfinder stuff, which can be found in chapter 15 of the core rulebook.
Using this method of determining weapon and armor ability values, a craftsperson can create an item with an effective item bonus equal to 1/2 their character level. But only 1/4 of their character level may be numerical bonuses.
So at level. 1, a character can craft masterwork armor. At level 2, one half of their level is 1, allowing them to create Arrow Catching armor. However, since 1/4 of 2 is still less than 1, the character could not create +1 armor. They can’t do that until they reach level 4, at which point they can create armor with an effective bonus of +2, so they could create +1 Arrow Catching armor if they so chose.
(Note: For those familiar with Pathfinder’s item creation rules, you will notice that I’ve removed the requirement that all magic items must be at least magically +1. I don’t think that’s necessary)
The base DC for crafting a masterwork item is 20. The DC for the crafting check increases by 2 for each effective item bonus added to the item. So a set of +1 Arrow Catching armor (an effective item bonus of 2) thus has a DC of 24.
Here’s a chart of how this would break down over the course of the game. Under bonuses, the numerical bonus is listed on the left, while the special ability bonus is listed on the right. Though, of course, there’s nothing to stop characters from ignoring the numerical bonus entirely, and simply using all of their available effective item bonuses to add special abilities to the weapon.
I think a week of crafting time for most items should be sufficient, though I’d rather leave that up to GM discretion. Gold pieces required to craft the item should be equal to 1/2 the items value. And any special materials would need to be acquired separately from that. If a spell is called for, a scroll will be sufficient, though if the character wishes to avoid that route, then they can seek out a special reagent at the GM’s discretion. (“Want to skip the scroll of Darkseeing? Then you better bring me a Drow’s eye!”)
If a roll is failed, then the character has a 10% chance to create a cursed item. Otherwise, they’ll simply create the best item their roll would have allowed for. So if they’re trying to create a +3/+4 sword, but they roll a 31, then the GM should roll first to determine if the sword will become a cursed item. If not, then the player has successfully created a +2/+3 sword.
I’m not convinced that this is the best way to handle crafting, but it’s the best way that I can come up with which still uses the Pathfinder skills system.
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Posted by LS on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 at 6:45 am
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Skills, Theorycrafting
A photo of the undisputed best toy ever.
I’ve long intended to redesign the Craft and Knowledge skills from the ground up. I’ve even taken a shot at it a few times in the past. I’ve got a completed, but unpublished post from mid Summer where I went on a rather vitriolic rant about the failings of the skills system, based on one of those unsuccessful attempts. Regardless of the system’s failings, though, I do think that both of these skills are beneficial to the game and could be improved from their RAW state without fundamentally changing the way the skills system works. So with some new ideas in hand, I’d like to give it another try. This time moving more slowly, and “showing my work.”
It seems logical to me that any skill must be created with at least two different types of characters in mind. The Moderately Invested Character, and the Focused Character.
The focused character is one who has made this skill their top priority. Whether the skill is a crafting or knowledge skill, or any other skill for that matter, this character is determined to be the best at what they do. Through luck or point-buy, they start the game with an 18 in the associated ability score, and they select a race which grants them a +2 bonus to that ability score. Every four levels, they improve that ability score by 1 point, culminating in a +6 modifier at level 8, and a +7 modifier at level 16. The focused character also takes Skill Focus at first level. And, obviously, this character has selected a class for which this skill is a class skill, and places new points into the skill at each level.
Now, it wouldn’t be hard to take this further. Their are races with better than a +2 ability score bonus. There are magical items and spells which–temporarily or permanently–increase a character’s ability scores. Some races receive bonuses for specific skills, such as the gnomish +2 racial bonus to craft. Often, masterwork tools give characters a functionally permanent circumstance bonus to their checks. There are even magical items which increase competency with a skill, though in my opinion these should be almost entirely ruled out of the game for reasons which will become obvious in a moment.
If a person really wanted to max out their skill, and the GM was willing to humor them, then I think the skills system is so fundamentally, mathematically flawed that it would be impossible to create a well balanced skill. But when attempting to craft these skills, I will assume that the players are not quite so obsessive, and the GM is not so foolish to indulge them if they are.
The other type of character which the system must be balanced for, the Moderately Invested Character, is much simpler. They do not make this skill a priority, but it is a class skill, and they do put skill points into it at each level. Their associated ability score is a +2, which is above average, but not great. That, I think, is a sufficient level of involvement that a player should expect to see solid, level appropriate returns on their decision to invest in this skill, whatever it may be.
For all of these characters; the focused, the moderately invested, and every character who falls between; the skill ought to work ‘right.’ Certainly, within this gradation, there will be players who are more or less skilled than others. That’s fine, and in fact it is one of the benefits of the Pathfinder skills system. However, a moderately invested character should never feel as though the skill isn’t useful to them, nor should a focused character receive such significant rewards that they become overpowered. Players with less skill than a moderately invested character can be legitimately viewed as handicapped in the skill, and should not expect full at-level rewards from it. And characters with greater skill than a focused character can be considered overpowered already.
So how do the numbers work out?
At first level, there’s already a variance of 6 between the moderately invested and the focused characters. By level 20 that variance has widened to 11. Those may not sound like very large numbers, but notice that a 10th level focused character has reached the same level of expertise that a 20th level moderately invested character can.
Forging ahead, now that we know which ranges the two character types will have available to them at each level, the question becomes: what acts should a character be able to perform at a given level? For example, according to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, +1 swords cost 2,000 gold pieces. They’re also available for sale in large cities, so in the assumed Pathfinder campaign setting, +1 swords should be available to a character who has sufficient gold. According to the wealth by level guidelines, a level 4 character should have 6,000 gold, so I think it’s safe to say that a character is meant to have +1 weapons by level 4. If characters are to be able to craft magic items using the crafting system (as is my goal), then what should be the DC of crafting a +1 sword? 25? That gives the moderately invested character a 25% chance of success at level 4, and the focused character a 40% chance of success at level 1.
Clearly an additional layer of complexity is required here. Materials cost will obviously help limit this crafting, but it’s important to me that I avoid requiring feats in this system.
Further work on my part is required, but at this juncture I’m eager to hear what others think. Perhaps one of my betters can save me some time?
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Posted by LS on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 at 6:45 am
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Skills, System Critique, Theorycrafting
Promotional art for “Beware the Batman,” from D.C. Comics and Cartoon Network
I’ve been pondering how stealthy action could be handled better at the table. When I assessed Pathfinder’s stealth skill earlier this year, I came to the conclusion that while the rules were dangerously unclear on specifics, they could still be interpreted as a pretty solid stealth mechanic. To refresh: Pathfinder’s stealth skill is rolled as an opposed check. The character wishing to be subtle makes their check, and any characters they wish to avoid the detection of rolls a perception check. Highest result wins. If the GM only calls for the check under the proper conditions, and the D&D 3.5 optional facing rules are used, then the skill as written works respectably well, all things considered.
Nevertheless I’ve recently found myself attracted to a ternary stealth system. I hesitate to call it simpler, because in some ways it is more complicated, but ultimately I believe it is more enjoyable and more streamlined than Pathfinder’s raw ruleset. In many ways, it is similar to the Streamlined Skills System I wrote about back in September. It would function thusly:
Characters are either “Subtle,” or “Unsubtle.” If the game is a retroclone, then characters like the thief or assassin will obviously be the subtle ones, whilst all other classes would be unsubtle. In Pathfinder, a subtle character is one who has a bonus in stealth not less than their HD + 1. (So a level 6 rogue must have a +7 or more in her stealth skill if she wishes to be a subtle character.) -OR- if you are concerned about stealth becoming a skill tax, a subtle character is any who has 10 ranks or more in the Stealth skill. (I would discourage my fellow GMs from having subtle characters be those of a class for whom stealth is a class skill. While it is reasonable, the entire benefit of the skill system is that any character can use it to excel at a given task).
Anytime any character wishes to go unseen, and that character has a reasonable chance of failure (more on this below), they must make a stealth check. In a retroclone, the check would likely be defined by the subtle character’s class abilities. In Pathfinder, the DC will be based on the environment. A field of grass would be the baseline of 10, a stone floor would be DC of 15, creaky wood a DC of 20, crunchy leaves or a floor filled with trash a DC of 25. Darkness would reduce the DC, while something like a large mirror would increase it. Obviously, armor check penalties would apply. GMs of both type of game are encouraged to grant circumstance bonuses to characters who take extra precautions like camouflage, and impose penalties on characters who fail to observe common sense precautions like moving at a slow pace.
Attempts at stealth should be rejected by the GM outright in any circumstance where moving undetected would be completely unreasonable. For example, moving in plain sight of the creature you wish to hide from.
If an unsubtle character fails their stealth check, then something has happened which alerts those around them. Perhaps they kicked a stone or scraped their foot on the floor. Perhaps something out of their control occurred, like the door they were opening being poorly maintained, and causing a loud squeaking sound when it opened. If an unsubtle character succeeds on their check, then they are moving pretty quietly. However, nearby creatures may be entitled to a perception check to detect the character anyway. In a retroclone, this perception check is a 1d6 roll, and could have a range of 1, 2, or 3, depending on how likely it is that the nearby creatures heard the player. In Pathfinder, this perception check is a skill check, directly opposed to the result of the player’s stealth roll.
If a subtle character fails their check, they receive the same result that an unsubtle character would on a successful check. If a subtle character succeeds on their check, then they are (within reason) moving with absolute stealth. Their victims are not entitled to any perception checks at all.
A single successful check is only good for so long, however. It would be ridiculous for a rogue to succeed on a stealth check, then move all the way down to bottommost level of the dungeon, retrieve the treasure, and walk back without requiring any further checks. A new check must be rolled any time the situation changes. Some examples of when a new check must be rolled include:
- Anytime the character enters a new area, such as moving into a new room.
- Anytime the character abandons something which aided them in their stealth, such as moving out of an area of darkness, or moving into an area where their camouflage would no longer be effective.
- Anytime they attempt a maneuver which might get them caught, such as making a quick dash from one hiding place to another, or when they open a door.
As mentioned above, checks should only be called for if there is a reasonable chance the character will be detected. Checks should not be called for if the player is crawling on their belly to glance over a hill at an enemy fortress in the valley below. Nor should checks be called for if the character is merely attempting to use some form of cover to hide themselves, without moving. Anybody can crawl inside of a barrel and be essentially undetectable. Exceptions may be made if the character needs to remain in their hiding place for an extremely long time (perhaps an hour or more), or if their hiding space is ill suited to them (such as hiding behind a pole barely large enough to conceal your body while standing sideways).
Ultimately, I hope this system will turn sneaking into a more active process, where players must discuss their actions in detail with the GM. I’m quite happy with this, and plan to implement it in all of my games so I can work out any bugs there may be. I’m eager to hear what others think as well.
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