Skills and Classes for the Younger Set

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Two players from my old Dungeon World group are looking to play something different. They have expressed interest in either my White Star house rules (but fantasy) or 5e. They don’t know that my White Star game house rules are essentially Swords & Wizardry classes with The Black Hack mechanics. The only concern for my old school proclivities was a lack of differentiation between characters of the same class.

I know, I know. I believe the memories of a characters’ exploits make them different from other characters, not the character sheet. Yes, it took me many months to train them to stop staring at the character sheet to see what they could do. Still, I feel like it would help them if they had a system that felt more like 5e. Selfishly, I think it would also help me ease into running a 5e game, so maybe we can all win.

I am considering a skill system bolt-on that adds only two rules:

  • You can try a skill, roll per normal rules against the attribute the GM names.
  • If you have the skill, add +2 bonus to the attribute being tested, a roll of 20 is always a failure.
  • You can add a new skill every 3 levels.

The list of skills would be the standard from 5e, but wouldn’t be tied to an attribute. On the character index card, skills would be listed next to special abilities. Since I haven’t had a game go beyond 10th level yet, three skills doesn’t feel like too many. At higher levels, since their primary attribute will likely be 17 to 20, it encourages skills for weaker attributes. This fits with the goal of making characters of the same class feel very different mechanically.

The only difference mechanically between a character with a skill and a special ability is that a character with a special ability rolls with advantage. More specifically, a Conjurer with the skill can roll under Dexterity for Sleight of Hand (which could mean picking pockets, palming a coin, or something) while a Thief rolls the same task with advantage. In fact, using the 5e skills (because they are more broad than 3.5 skills) also gives me tools for building classes.

A Bard is a character that rolls with advantage (Charisma) for Persuasion and Performance tests. An Ranger rolls Perception tests with advantage. Thieves could range in abilities (roll with advantage to deceive, or to gather food while adventuring outdoors.

The benefit I see mechanically occurs at lower level, but the bonus is low enough that it might encourage diversification. I’ll have to play with this some more.