On Skill Deconstruction: An Assessment
I do not hate skills.
In fact, I am quite fond of mechanical systems to resolve conflict.
I am very interested in what makes for fun resolution mechanics. My complaints are about specific issues with specific systems - not the idea of conflict resolution mechanic systems in general.
So let me start off by saying, I have never to date and would never run a game that lacked skills. I think they are crucial not only to the play of the game, but also enjoyable for the players to feel a sense of accomplishment outside of just leveling up.
However, by RAW in d20 their skill system has serious problems.
What are the solutions?
Well the first solution has been pointed out by several people, notably DomDem and Confanity who's comments started this in-depth examination of skills.
Be a good DM.
The way a DM handles skills is the single largest factor as to how they are received by the people playing the game and a huge influence on the amount of fun they are having.
Pick a non-broken resolution mechanic or subsystem based on what you intend the skill to do.
There are many different types of resolution mechanics, and we will examine some when we take a closer look at specific skills and their uses in upcoming posts. At the end the different techniques we've come up with will be collected into a single post for a review. (hints: simple, low granularity, increase in accuracy as skill increases)
Characters must be able to improve applicable skills (like real people) separately from advancement in level.
I have a fairly large OSR readership (and I appreciate you, natch!) and most of us run older games where there is little mechanical advancement past a certain point. Sometimes it can be a long long time between levels once name level is reached. So some ability must exist for players to increase their skills separate from level giving them non-level oriented goals, as well as potential rewards. Not all skills are learnable or improvable though.
It must work within the confines of the games we are already playing.
Basically if it requires major redesign of the nature of any version of D&D, we need to take a step back and reconsider. We're all playing the game we want to play - suggestions should fit within that and not destroy it. The special case is of course 3.5/pathfinder. Since the preexisting system is so large, you would need to address that in a fairly major way (i.e. truncated and replaced, or house ruled seriously)
These systems should not - as a general rule - prevent those without training or those possessing the skill from attempting the said task.
After all - we want to focus on player skill. These skills are not meant to replace player skill but supplement it in order to resolve conflicts that meet our criteria here.
Also: apparently this series has been so terrible? Inflammatory? that I've had three people stop following my blog.
I really think I must be on to something.
If you'd like to show your support for this post, and my blog in general, feel free to click the follow button over there on the right!
We'll be looking at individual skills next!