Non-Weapon Proficiencies in Andras

I have been wrestling with the NWP section of Andras for quite some time. I've even wrestled over the name. Since I want a skill system, it seems to follow that I should just call it a skill system. We'll see where the internal debate leads. At this point, the main reason I do not want to call it a skill system is that I do not want to get too close to d20, 3e or Pathfinder when handling these player abilities. As I said, we'll see.

Looking for inspiration for developing the system, I kept re-reading the chapters on Proficiencies in the PHB and the DMG. I even went back to Skills and Powers and looked at their redo of proficiencies. Considering the way that so many thing in Andras are already roll-under, I like the S&P way of doing it. I liked that in the S&P, the starting point is much lower than the starting point in the PHB. For example, Agriculture is INT+0 in the PHB. while in S&P, the starting score is 7 before adding adjustments for ability scores. If you have a character with 15 INT taking the agriculture NWP, a first level character will have a 75% chance of success. According to the S&P, the base score of 7 would be modified with a +2 due to Intelligence giving a final score of 9. Odds of success are 45%.

This may seem like no big deal, but it becomes an issue with Class NWPs like Spellcraft. Under the PHB, a wizard with 16 INT has a starting score of 14 for Spellcraft, whereas the S&P wizard would have a 10. That's a 20% differential. It strikes me as important because I still want 1st level character to be limited, but have more definition than their class description.

Sounds great, but I'm not using the character point system for character advancement. How would this look when the NWP's start with less power, but have the ability to improve over time? Would improvement over time re-create the overpowered feeling I get from the 2e proficiencies rules already?

Then I looked to my copies of Dragon. In particular, I found #225 to be very interesting. In it, Clayton Beal provides a revised proficiency system that keeps scores a little lower, but provides a simple way to determine advancement. In essence, every skill starts with a 10, it is then modified per the NWP in the Player's Handbook and then modified with the bonus from the ability. In other words, using a character with INT 15 taking the Agriculture NWP, the character starts with 11 as a score. Calculating that out, start with 10, then modify by 0 because Agriculture is INT+0 in the PHB, then modify by +1 referencing a table in the article. This is lower than the 15 under the original rules and higher than the 9 calculated from the S&P.

What about our Spellcraft example? Original PHB - 14, S&P, 10. Article in Dragon Magazine - 10. A base of 10 is modified by -2 (from the listing in the PHB) and then modified by a +2 from the ability score (INT 16).

So we have the NWP's calculated, how about advancement? Every level, a character can advance the score by one on an existing NWP. These points cannot be saved from level to level. Increase the score by one per level, or lose the point. What about third level characters that gain new NWP slots and the +1 bonus point? The bonus point cannot be added to the new NWPs, only the existing ones. So if my character wants to add the Bowyer NWP, the +1 point cannot be applied to it.

Now for the fun part, out of class NWPs. Under S&P, a character of one class that chooses a non-weapon proficiency from a different class receives a mild penalty. Under the rules in the PHB and Dragon 225, it costs double the slots. This may seem a minor trifle, but using Spellcraft as an example, a Rogue looking for the Spellcraft NWP pays 3 character points plus 2 extra for a final cost of 5 character points. In the Dragon Magazine article, it costs two proficiency slots. Considering that a character can take disadvantages in S&P, two points doesn't seem a high enough penalty. (An article in the same issue of Dragon demonstrates this with an 8 step process to create an S&P character.)

The word count is already high, so I'll end here. When I work out the final rules, I'll post them here as a PDF. It may not be the skill system in OpenQuest, though that is tempting, but it feels like 2e without the ability inflation.

Posts About the Game You Think You Know

2eDM over at THAC0 Forever! has been posting a series about the actual rules of 2e. When I joined a 2e group recently and went through the rules, I was surprised at all the optional rules provided. In fact, based on the rules that are NOT optional, it plays a lot like my first 1e group.

I was surprised by Chapter 11 stating that surprise was determined by 1d10 with 1,2,3 being a success. I had always done a roll of 1 on a 1d6. I know, works out about the same. Still, it's something I didn't pick up on until I started with this most recent group.

Anyway, here are links to the series thus far.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

I've been interested in reading these and comparing them to the optional rules made mandatory in various Skills and Powers books.

In my clone, I'm still looking for a good way to include Non-Weapon Proficiencies in a sane manner. In addition to rolling the Thieves Skills into the same mechanic, I keep going back and forth between the PHB way of listing them (Attribute - Modifier, roll under to succeed) or the Skills and Powers way (Start with a score ranging from 4 to 8 depending on the NWP). Thieves Skills would operate the Skills and Powers way because of the nature of their improvement over time. The difference is, that the PHB way ties Non-Weapon Proficiencies to an attribute, something recently mentioned by none-other-than-Mike-Mearls, while the Skill & Powers way completely divorces the NWP from attributes.

The question is, could I make Thieves Skills attribute based? Climbing Walls would probably be DEX -2, but some of the other could be awful. Pick Pockets at DEX -8?

Then again, maybe I can leave them detached from an attribute. The only thing I really changed from the PHB is that a d20 is used instead of d%. Consequently, a Thief begins with 12 points instead of 60 and gains 6 points instead of 30 points at each new level.

Rock on, 2eDM!

Cryptic Note Saves Day

While creating the massive table of skills for the OSR project, I found a note written in my 2e Player's Handbook.

Here's the pertinent section - it is found when describing the skills a Rogue uses:

To determine the initial value of each
skill, start with the base scores listed on
Table 26. To these base scores, add (or subtract)
any appropriate modifiers for race,
Dexterity, and armor worn (given on Tables
27, 28, and 29, respectively).

The scores arrived at in the preceding paragraph
do not reflect the effort a thief has
spent honing his skills. To simulate this
extra training, all thieves at 1st level receive
60 discretionary percentage points that they
can add to their base scores. No more than
30 points can be assigned to any single skill.
Other than this restriction, the player can
distribute the points however he wants.

Each time the thief rises a level in experience,
the player receives another 30 points
to distribute. No more than 15 points per
level can be assigned to a single skill, and no
skill can be raised above 95 percent, including
all adjustments for Dexterity, race, and
armor.

In other words, there is no table in 2e because there are base skills, Dexterity and Racial modifiers and discretionary points. I saw a note written in the margin that says "Neat!" and now I remember why. It allowed us to have a 5th level Thief (we never called them rogues) with really high abilities to certain skills in order to create interesting subclasses. We had a trapmaster that was great at finding and removing traps, a ninja that could move silently and climb walls, or an urban thief that was a great pickpocket and lockbreaker.

So our skill table will look something like this:

Pick Pockets 15%
Open Locks 15 %
Find/Remove Traps 15%
Move Silently 15%
Hide in Shadows 15%
Detect Noise 15%
Climb Walls 60%
Read Languages 0%
Read Magic 0%
Catch/Batt Away Object 15%
Acrobatics 50%

For Each Skill a player chooses for their class, the player is give 7.5 discretionary points (Round up). The player may use these points to boost skill percentages in any or all skills. An individual skill cannot receive more than half the total discretionary point pool.

Remember that all character classes can attempt these skills on a 1 in 8 dice roll (12.5%). Only those that take them as a focus can increase their abilities. The balancing feature that prevents someone from taking 'every' skill is the XP cost. Each skill has an XP cost that makes in more difficult to advance in levels.

Two side notes: Fighters in the pre-built classes have one skill, catch object. At first level, a Fighter has a 23% chance of catching/batting away a thrown object - this can include certain spells. At 11th level, they can be pretty difficult to hit from a distance. Magic-Users purchase the Read Magic ability at 100% in a different part of character creation.