Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Incorporating Skills and Villainizing Feats

I've posed the question, what game best uses skills on multiple forums over the past couple weeks and received some great responses. From utilizing approaches to skill actions (instead of rolling) to making every aspect of a character building skill-based, there is a lot out there. One constant, however, is at least one or two offhanded statements about how D&D's skill system was 'tacked on.' This is a pretty strong theme in internet communities populated with avid RPG player, be it a complaint about feats, saves, bonuses- a large portion of long-time RPG players seem not only reject the D&D system but also scoff at its design.

I tend to think this is due to exposure to many RPG systems and more of a rejection of the norm (maybe even crave for something new) than a true condemnation of the whole system. With that said, I did pose the question for a reason. I took the system from 3.5 and simply pared down the amount of skills and ranks, and called it a day. My reasoning for keeping it was that at the time it seemed pretty damn customizable. But eventually, I came back to it (as I do with everything) and made a second adjustment (and probably the most pronounced) and changed what many of the skills were. I'm particularly happy with dropping Charisma based skills like Bluff and Intimidate in favor of Composure because it necessitates a verbal response from the character before the roll, instead of taking the Exalted path and using skills like attacks.

After this second revision, I left it only to return again, because what truly bothers me about the system is that it's cumbersome for the character creation process. You have to look through many lists to make your character; skills, feats, classes, races, spells. If I want to have classes then there's no avoiding a list of those, and having different races and spells are simply a necessity as well, but  I can get rid of one list, feats. I've always had trouble justifying their existence. How are they different from skills? It also doesn't help that old school players utterly reject them. And even though that doesn't bother me too much, It suddenly hit me, just combine skills and feats. Right now I have ranks in Spellcraft granting characters access to 0 level spells. Well, I could just take this a step further and strip away 'skill ranks' and 'skill points' and simply state, with a skill modifier of such and such choose 2 features from the spellcraft skill or martial focus skill. The only difficulty here is marrying the two ideas in such a way that I'm not left with a mess.

With that out there, it begs the question, how do players increase the character's skill modifier later in the game? My first instinct was to have the GM grant permanent skill modifier bonuses based on the player's actions. In fact, I parsed it all out until a friend said, are you really going to be doing that consistently in the game or is it just going to become this forgotten thing? So I thought, what about having the player grant his character a higher skill modifier, let's say to a maximum bonus of +3, either divided into many skills or lumped into one skill. Now, I assume the player or GM (or both) will dream up an in-game reason, like the character spent a lot of time at the arcane library trying to solve this mystery, so his Knowledge Sorcery increases by 1, but either way, with a maximum value, it's a recognizable mechanic that gives the player a choice, spend it here or here based on the story. I think it's an eloquent solution, no?