d3RPG – Skills to Pay the Bills

Uh, ahem, sorry. Now that you’re here, you’ll have to excuse my little distraction. I’ve been promising for a couple of weeks now to talk about Skills in d3RPG, so I guess I’m out of excuses by now. Skills are one of the primary ways you interact with the world so it’s only fair if we go into a bit of detail on them.

Skills – what are they?

The concept of Skills is a pretty central one in the world of RPGs. Skills take the incredibly, uncountably, mind-bogglingly vast number of things you can do in the world, and distil this potential into a manageable list of mechanical actions. Sounds riveting, right? Let’s make it simpler – for the most part, any time you want to have an impact on the world, you roll against a Skill in some way.

  • Feel like climbing a tree? You’ll need to make a Climb check. Or maybe an Acrobatics.
  • If you’re trying to negotiate a price with a merchant, you might need to test against your Barter, Appraise, or Persuade skill.
  • When you’re delving deep, deep into the lost mysteries in an ancient library, you could be testing your Knowledge, Research or Librarian skills.
  • You might even use your Arcana or Spellcraft skills if you’re attempting to create a new spell to help you remember the dozens of different Skills available to you.

Every system has a different list of Skills, and they each have either more or less detail and mechanics involved in how you use them. For example, take a look at the Craft Skill in Pathfinder, my system of choice. You’ll be a while, but it’s OK. I’ll wait here.

When you get back, compare it to the Athletics Skill in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. You’ll quickly see that there’s a lot less detail there.

Part of this difference in level of detail is down to the method of presentation – Pathfinder “front loads” lots of data and mechanics on the player, while D&D presents players only with what they really need at the time. However, there’s also a philosophical difference in the systems here. D&D is designed to be much more streamlined than previous versions to lower the barrier to entry, while Pathfinder embraced the options and details available in systems of yore.

By the numbers, Pathfinder has 26 main skills, some of which are broken down into significant lists of sub-skills in their own right. On the other hand, D&D 5e has a relatively paltry 18 core skills.

On the left, D&D’s short skill list, compared to the extensive Pathfinder list on the right.

There’s no objectively correct skill list – the size of a skill list and the skills that are included are all going to depend upon the type of game you want to play.

d3RPG reduces the list even further. Taking inspiration from Sagaborn’s list of just nine skills, d3RPG is also limited to nine skills. The nice thing about this number is that it fits well into the “rule of threes” that has naturally emerged during development.

So, what are these Skills?

Hold your horses, I’m not going to just dump the list right now. You’ve gotta work for that, but it’s coming very soon, I promise.

It wouldn’t take a genius to realise that with three Attributes and nine skills, there’s a good-to-guaranteed chance that there are three Skills tied to each Attribute. And surprise surprise, said not-a-genius would be right.

This also allows a second relationship – each Attribute has one “Offensive” skill, one “Defensive” skill, and one “Utility” skill. Don’t get me wrong though – the use of the terms Offensive and Defensive shouldn’t be taken to be too narrow or traditional here. In a little more detail:

  • Offensive skills allow your character to impact and shape the world around them
  • Defensive skills represent your character’s ability to withstand changes in the world, both big and small
  • Utility skills are the requisite “everything else”.

There’s potentially a lot of overlap here, and if I’m going to squeeze in the potential actions you could take in an entire Universe then these Skills are necessarily going to have to be pretty broad.

But, finally, here they are. The nine Skills of d3RPG:

But what does that MEAN?

You’re a fussy lot, aren’t you? Fine. Here’s the current description of each skill from the jumble of notes that is the current rulebook.

The Mind skills deal with how you understand and relate to the world.

  • Awareness lets you take note of what is happening around you. Is there someone attempting to pick your pocket? Are you being stalked through the forest? Is the shopkeeper naturally nervous, or do those darting glances to the corner of his store indicate something else? Is that prickling on the back of your neck just sweat, or is someone targeting you with a spell? These are all examples of situations where Awareness is of great value.
  • Wisdom is the Old Wives Tales which don’t make logical sense, but bear results anyway. Not touching the spiny purple bush. Knowing to hide when you hear a bear approaching. Not antagonising someone who is much larger and more intimidating than you are. Wisdom is predominantly about survival and base instincts.
  • Knowledge is the opposite of Wisdom. It’s good-old “book learning”. It might represent your formal studies, or tidbits you have picked up while on the endless pub crawl that is your life. Regardless, your Knowledge skill represents the trivia and information that you have filed away for future reference. Who was the King of a neighbouring land 100 years ago? How much weight needs to be added to the counterbalance of the trebuchet to clear the Keep’s walls? Are these creatures before you more likely to be looking for a meal, or an easy way to get away from the people with swords? Knowledge provides answers that are objective and factual, and can answer all these questions and more.

 

The Body skills represent the manner in which you have trained your physical self.

  • Strength is predominantly brute power. The power of your arm when wielding a sword or the skill with which you can scale a cliff are both demonstrations of the Strength skill. Importantly, the better your Strength, the easier you will find it to connect with your opponents in battle.
  • Dexterity is useful for dodging incoming blows, balancing on a ledge, aiming a bow or even outrunning an opponent. Any time you need to make a decision and then act on it within a fraction of a second, that’s your dexterity at play.
  • Sneak represents your ability to finely control your bodily movements. Lifting a purse without being noticed. Stalking a wild boar without stepping on any noisy leaves or twigs. Hiding in the shadows of an alley to avoid pursuit. Using facial gestures during a conversation to convey a hidden message. Sneak can be used for nearly any sort of test when you don’t want your intentions to be known.

 

The Spirit skills are used by the you-shaped piece of the universe to impart its will on an uncaring existence.

  • Spellcraft represents the sheer power of your Will to impact the world. Typically, through the use of magic and spell casting. In some settings, the Storyteller may refer to this skill by a less-magical name, such as “Intuition” or “Psyche”. Regardless of the name used, use of this skill allows you to shape the world in ways that many people would view as impossible. It can also be used to recognise and understand the effect of magic and magical acts by others around you.
  • Resilience is how well you are able to withstand both positive and negative spiritual and emotional challenges. This may include events such as betrayal by your “friends”, revelation that you have followed a false god for your entire life, or the effects of a spell attempting to draw your lifeforce out of you.
  • Persuasion allows you to bend the will of others to your own. Your force of personality, your way with words, your raw charisma – these all combine to impact your skill at persuading others to do your bidding. Whether it’s knocking the price of a lovely bottle of wine down by a few gold pieces, talking a man-at-arms into following you into the dungeon, or convincing a nobleman that you’re the new chambermaid and not actually a burly criminal here to steal their trinkets. These acts all rely on your skills of Persuasion.

 

Nice. Great. Awesome. But how do I USE my Skills?

With a roll, of course. Sometimes the task you are attempting is so simple that you will automatically succeed, requiring no roll. However, many times in a gaming session the Storyteller is likely to ask you to make a Test of your skill. The default Target for these Tests is 10, although this number is regularly adjusted by either the Storyteller or the Rules.

To make a Skill Test, roll 3d3!1 + Skill + Perks (More on Perks another day). If the result meets or exceeds the Target, you are successful. There are no “critical” successes or failures in d3RPG. You either meet the target, or you do not. Simple!

Example: Gregory, from our previous article, is still very injured. Susan the Preacher goes to a temple to procure aid, and is told that medical services will cost 25 gold pieces, more than the party can afford.

Susan tries to convince the temple healer to help a fellow member of the cloth by lowering their prices. The Storyteller instructs Susan to make a Persuade Test (mentally noting that the Target is only 9, as Susan and the healer do indeed share a religion). Susan has the Silver Tongue Perk, which allows her to add +1 to her Persuade roll when negotiating on price. She rolls (2 + 2 + 1) + 2 (Persuade) +1 (Silver Tongue) = 8 total.

The healer will not budge on their price. Things do not look good for Gregory.

Excellent! When do we play?

Not for quite a while yet, dear excited reader. There’s still a lot more to talk about. Perks. Magic. Equipment. Character Building. Adventures. But these can all wait for another day. In fact, some of these we might not get to for quite a while yet. For the next little while, weekly articles will continue with a shift in focus – some of the other projects that I’ve got going on at the moment. As much as I’m enjoying working on d3RPG, there’s a lot of other things that I have bubbling away in the melting pot of my mind that I want to talk about. We’ll get back to d3RPG soon though, I promise. And hopefully, we’ll find something else that you enjoy reading in the meantime!

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