Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do SKILLS belong in classical gaming ?

I have never been a fan of feats, yet
I maintain that skills ARE old school. What is NOT consistent with classical gaming is munchkin character builds and complex formulas to calculate one’s proficiency or rank in a skill.
Two examples . . .

This fine argument from Mystic Mogul posted on 17 Sep 2010. . .

"First up is the idea that Skill Challenges are new to fourth edition. Nonsense! We've been struggling with them for years--let's look at a example from the 2nd edition Player's Handbook.A

" ' A freak wave sweeps Fiera (an elf) overboard during the night. Fortunately, she can swim and knows that land is nearby. Bravely, she sets out through calm water. Her Constitution score is 16. After 14 hours of steady swimming, she makes out an island on the horizon. Two hours later she is closer, but still has some way to go. During the next hour (her 17th in the water), her Constitution drops to 15 (her attack penalty is -17!) and she must make a Constitution check. A 12 is rolled--she passes. In the last hour, the 18th, the seas become rough. Her Constitution is now 13 (the DM ruled that the heavy seas made her lose 2 points of Constitution this hour), and the DM decides she must pass an extra Constitution check to reach shore. She rolls a 5 and flops onto shore, exhausted. ' ”

Traveller, the Role Playing game was first published in 1977.
Note that game's heavy dependence on skill usage.

Now, that we established that skills are consistent with classical game play.
Why should we include them . . .

The elegant use of a skill system allows seamless customization of characters without having to propagate an endless series of new character classes. No need for a ranger class, just have you fighter select tracking and stealth as skills. No need for a sage class, just have your mage acquire scroll craft and archaic knowledge.

The use of a skill system provides value for the non-fighters and those characters who lack spell casting abilities; i.e., a thief with climb skill is going to have a much higher degree of expertise or rank than an equal level fighter or priest who also has climb skill.

Long gone are those days of endless time and four television channels when you had hours upon hours to design and craft your own unique dungeons and adventurers. The use of a skill system is a great time saver for the modern, adult game master who has significant work, familial and social commitments.

A skill system (and ascending armor class) makes your rules compatible with the most popular game system of all time
(OGL, v.3.X, and Pathfinder).
The GM can now scavenge a plethora of free or darn near free adventures from the net, E-bay or Amazon for hiser weekly game. An OGL compatible game allows a resourceful GM to more rapidly prepare stories, maps, plot hooks and stat blocks.

“Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler”
Attributed to Albert Einstein


  1. I love the "double" skill system of Empire of the Petal Throne :D

    Still, I don't like to have skills in D&D, and eventually add them only if the players ask for that...

  2. I kind of like skills in any system, but there are a lot of lackluster realizations of skill systems.

  3. Runequest 2nd ed. is pretty "old school" (3d6 straight down the line for chargen even) and is one of the quintessential skill-based games.

    Though I do like new classes--gives me something to write about on a slow day haha.

  4. I (obviously) like the skill system from EPT. It seems to strike a good balance between "just here for background color" and all-important system mechanic. I feel it tends toward the latter while leaving lots of space for GM fiat and player creativity in skill use. Plus it's backed by a very simple and flexible skill resolution system.