[House Rules]Everyone is Skilled (Thieves Still Suck)

As I previously mentioned, there are a plethora of ways to ‘fix’ thieves (beyond leaving them out of the game entirely).  This originally started as another means of ‘fixing’ thieves, and not one I came up with on my own either (see below).  However, the idea stuck with me so long that I couldn’t NOT do something with it.  I know a lot of people hate skill systems with a passion, and I get that.  Equally, I’ve played with a lot of players that feel hamstrung by characters without some crunch ‘meat’ on their bones.  Take this as you will.  Personally I could use something like this quite easily.

Everyone is Skilled

Skills…because seriously, what jack ass risks their lives in underground hell holes without being loaded for bear?

Issue 6 of the excellent Fight On! Magazine presented several looks at skill systems in older versions of D&D.  One by ‘Northrundicandus’ presented a simple chart of skills that all classes possessed and a 2d6 system for using them.  I’m going to take that idea and modify it to work in ACKS and make it d20 based.

The skills (with a few additions from myself) are as follows:

Athletics-climbing, acrobatics, etc.

Listening-hearing perception checks

Locks-picking locks

Lore-knowledge checks (primarily mundane knowledge, history, military events, heraldry, rudimentary science and chemistry, religion, occult commonly known to the society, not used for magic items, magical orders, alchemy, or similar specialized knowledge, etc).

Searching-spotting, finding traps, etc.

Slight of Hand-pick pockets, prestidigitation, concealing objects

Stealth-hiding, moving silently, etc.

Traps-removing traps, setting & creation traps

Wilderness-survival, identification, etc.

As you can see they are quite broad and unobtrusive.  There was a Trade skill, but I ditched that in favor of the Bartering Proficiency in ACKS.  The original version of the idea has each of the original three classes having a set value that could improve as they leveled.  That works well enough, but I’d rather players have more room to build the characters as they see fit…so here we go.

The target number for all skills is 20+ (your total must be 20 or higher).  Natural 20’s always succeed, natural 1’s always fail.  The DM can allow attributes to modify the roll if they see fit (so INT might modify a Magic based Lore check, but WIS might modify a Religious based one, Athletics might sometimes be based on STR and other times DEX, etc, etc).

Human non-thief Classes get 12 points to divide amongst their skills, with no skill getting more than 6 points.  Every level they advance they get 2 points to spend on their skills (they can increase 2 skills by 1 each or increase one skill by 2).

Classes with thief abilities that require proficiency rolls lose these, but get +2 general skill points per lost thief skill.  Sneak Attack, and those that remain at a set value (such as Read Languages) do not count for this however.

Classes built with 2 points in Thief (in the Player’s Companion) get 3 skill points per level after 1st.

Classes built with 3 or 4 points in Thief get 4 skill points per level after 1st.

With this in mind:

The Thief Class starts with 28 points to divide amongst their abilities.  Every additional level, they get 4 points to spend on their skills.

Assassin starts with 16, +2 per level.
Bard 12, +3 per level.
Elven Nightblades get 6 extra (8 total), +3 per level.

Now, non-humans get some default skills to help them suit their archtype.  Any class of that race should be built as follows (though Dwarven Proficiency bonus should be added to all skills, making their racial levels much more valuable in this system, and any non-human class built with thief skills should get extra skill points as noted above).  Non-humans get a lot of points to fulfill their archtypes, however, they mostly start out the same, unlike humans.  Unless they have thief abilities, they only get 2 points to spend as they wish at level 1 (and each level thereafter).

Even Skills

Dwarf Skills

Athletics +6 Athletics +5
Listening +8 Listening +3
Locks -2 Locks +8
Lore +6 Lore +4
Searching +6 Searching +4
Slight of Hand +4 Slight of Hand +0
Stealth +5 Stealth -2
Traps +0 Traps* +2
Wilderness +6 Wilderness +0

*Dwarves are better with Stone-work traps per their racial ability.

Thrassian Skills

Zaharan Skills

Athletics +8 Athletics +2
Listening +4 Listening +2
Locks -2 Locks +0
Lore +0 Lore +6
Searching +4 Searching +2
Slight of Hand +2 Slight of Hand +0
Stealth +4 Stealth +3
Traps +0 Traps +3
Wilderness +8 Wilderness +4

Nobirin Skills

Gnomes Skills

Athletics +6 Athletics +2
Listening +4 Listening +2
Locks +0 Locks +2
Lore +6 Lore +6
Searching +4 Searching +2
Slight of Hand +0 Slight of Hand +5
Stealth +0 Stealth +5
Traps +0 Traps +0
Wilderness +4 Wilderness +5

I just made these numbers up. The idea follows what is presented originally in the article.  Yes, non-humans get some pretty extreme advantages, but to me, this is compensated for by the higher experience cost for advancement and fits the simulationist idea to help the nonhumans stand out (it also addresses races being good at something without needing to give attribute modifiers…i.e. Elves are quiet and perceptive, and if they have bonuses to stealth and Listen/Search, they don’t need a higher Wis and/or Dex to live up to that archtype).  If you prefer, you can ignore this and have non-humans use the human rules (10 skill points to spend) but you have the sticky problem of racial powers for the elves (their searching for secret doors thing).  I’m ok with the above.  I think it makes the races who are usually much older than humans feel ‘right’.  But I wouldn’t argue that it’s balanced.  If you use level limits, that’s where the balance is…forced obsolescence (I don’t use level limits, but that’s something for another article).

Now, I like skills and I like skill systems so I find this one really appealing.  Especially the way it allows everyone to try to learn everything.  You would need to come up with situational modifiers and all that, but that’s easy enough (say, -1 to Stealth rolls for each point of armor over 2 that you wore, etc, etc).  I’d say +/- 1-5 would be sufficient for most situations.   Actually, I’d probably just roll it like this:

Difficulty 10  Easy

Difficulty 15  Average

Difficulty 20  Hard

Difficulty 25  Very Hard

Difficulty 30  Extreme/Impossible

The problem is, how does this relate to Proficiencies?  I certainly would not want to make Profs obsolete or anything of the sort. I love the ACKS proficiency system.  So, a couple of ideas occur to me.  One, if a Prof clearly fills the same role as one of the above skills, then either it adds to the skill (um… +4 maybe?) or the player gets two rolls, one versus the skill and one versus their prof?  Probably add them together would be the easiest.  The other would be to change existing Profs so they work alongside this system.  Fast and dirty though, I’d lean towards letting the character have two rolls.  So, someone with Collegiate Wizardry could make a Lore roll to recognize another school of magic, if they failed, they could then make the 11+ roll of CW.  Just a thought.

Monster Skills

Monsters can have whatever skill value the GM needs (and rarely need to roll skills).  If they need to be built like a pc (say for hireling or recurring NPCs), give them 10 + 2 per HD.  Creatures known for stealth or perception can get a bonus as the GM sees fit.

Comparing Skills

When two characters compete with each other, winner is whoever rolls higher.


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