So You Want To Build A Snowman…

February 4, 2017

Yesterday we went over the kind of outline for what I’m thinking the new skill system will look like. Today we’re going to look at it comparing two wildly disparate applications of it in a game setting; a social and legal maneuvering scene and the construction of a sturdy axe.

Our two example characters will be Kirann Wildstalker who is trying to spring his friend from an unjust arrest and Gerta Stromdottar forging an axe for her daughter to take on her first adventure. Kirann is going to be at a lower level, someone relatively new to their adventuring career but has had a few dungeons and a few major scrapes fall beneath his bow. Gerta, on the other hand, has long since retired. She raised her daughters, she taught them how to fight, and now one of them is finally leaving their home on the windswept coasts to make her own name. Both of these characters have simple goals; Kirann is trying to overturn a single legal obstacle and Gerta’s making an item. These same systems can be scaled up to much more complex problems, though, and hopefully can have games built on them by themselves.

First, their Skills. Gerta’s is easy; it’s Weaponsmithing, which will be a subset of Craft like it has been since 3rd Edition D&D. Her rolls are going to use Intelligence for planning out and building her axe, since she can take her time and refine her approach. She has the option of using Wisdom instead if she wants to, trusting her intuition rather than planning to put it together. Kirann’s is a little more difficult. In older editions it would probably be a Knowledge skill of some kind, possibly Knowledge Local. These skills, though, are both too broad and too narrow for a good, flexible system. Instead, we’re using a new skill I’m introducing; Law. Law is used in any situation where bureaucracy needs to be navigated, with penalties being applied if the person is unfamiliar with the laws themselves. The practice of arguing law and executing law, though, is a set of skills on its own. While there’s lots of arguments for Intelligence and Wisdom being good attributes to have when working with the law in general, in this case Kirann is trying to convince officials to do something specific. That’s going to take Charisma. Luckily he was a Forest Warden before he started his adventuring career and has a little bit of experience with the Law.

Here’s what our Attributes and Skills look like;

Kirann – Charisma of +2 (14) and Law of 1, for a total of +3

Gerta – Intelligence of +3 (16) and Weaponsmithing of 3, for a total of +6

Now, the most complicated part until people are used to the system and how to think of it; Tools.

Gerta has a full workshop at her disposal, including grindstones and foot-peddled machines. She had spent much of her adventuring loot on building her perfect home while caring for her new children. While none of it is magical, she can craft with the greatest care and the best materials. In these rules, materials count as a tool; they have an effect on the final outcome but do not, themselves, make it easier or harder outside of their normal use. Just like a handsaw, if a smith doesn’t know how to work with adamantite then it’s not a tool they can use.

Kirann on the other hand is…not as well prepared. He has a strong command of the language of the law and speaks the same dialect with the same slang as the Elves he’s working with, and he’s generally a respected member of the community. However, he has no formal training in this area, nor a library of any kind to utilize. He also doesn’t have a lot of time to think over his arguments, and there’s no paperwork to examine here – it’s all arguing with the right officials and getting the right seals in order. Elven society doesn’t use a lot of paperwork. It’s going to be tough, but if he talks fast it might work out – it’s not like his friend’s been arrested for murder. Plus he has his party helping out and they’re pretty smart themselves.

Kirann – Slapdash preparation, but assistance from friends. Overall I’d give Kirann a +2 for the tools he has available and the ability to Fast Talk past a failure once per official.

Gerta – Great materials? Great tools? Great preparation and training? Gerta gets +10 to the crafting itself and can easily make a Minor Magical Item with what she has available. If her player wants to get a little complicated and fancy, that might also be possible depending on what the GM thinks she can accomplish with just ingenuity and craftsmanship.

The GM sets their difficulties then. Kirann’s is hard, but not impossible; the GM says he needs a 10 to succeed at all and generally gets only one roll per official he interacts with, and the difficulty goes up if he botches any interaction. If he has to smooth things out, that’s another 5 points he needs to spend. That’s not too hard, since with the help of the Bard in his party and the Paladin giving an air of authority, he can Fast Talk through that once per person. Gerta’s is more complicated. The axe itself is only going to take 5 points to finish, which means if it wasn’t something she cared about she could knock out a whole bunch at once – which she has when her village was under attack by the local human settlement – but this is for her daughter. She’s using her best techniques and materials, so she works out a set of advancements she wants to attach and hopes she has the points for it by the time she’s done crafting; 15 for a +1 weapon, 10 for a baldric and ring that calls to the axe if it’s lost, 10 for intricate scroll work and tooling that will remind her daughter of her love and affection on the adventuring trail that can hopefully inspire the girl to persevere and come home alive.

Then they roll. They price out their advances. They haggle with the GM and reach out to other players to use their own skills to smooth out the path toward victory. There’s planning, tactics equipment, and engagement.

This is what I think a skill system should look like. We’re getting closer to when I can just list a bunch of skills and talk about them. Maybe after that we’ll get into what I think races should look like.

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