On Alchemical Items: Powder of Deathsight

Happy new year everyone!

Powder of Deathsight
BSC:80%(R)gp:15gp
DC:12TTC:1 day
CC:0 (-4)CGP::3 gp
NWP:+3XP:10xp
D100:+55%Weight:- / 20
D6:5 in 6 / 2Difficulty:Easy
RarityUncommon

MaterialsRare Earth (1 dram), Absinthe (4 drams), Cyclamen (1 dram), Henbane (2 drams), Nightshade (3 drams), Gypsum (1 dram), Calx Viva (2 drams)

Description: When this dust is inhaled or consumed it causes the target to perceive all living creatures as walking corpses. Flesh appears to be rotting and sloughing off, gait is unsteady, and the process of decay has set in on every living creature the target sees. The target is under no compulsion to act hostile towards the visions and perceives all other visual and auditory stimuli as normal, i.e. he hears their speech and sees their reactions as normal.
The powder tastes like bananas and cumin and will flavor food and drink accordingly.


Rules are here.

On Interesting Treasure: Patchwork Raptor

The Patchwork Raptor made by the long dead ancient master smith Glimzig Dalkor was said once long ago in legend to be a living bird.

Anyone who discovers this strange creature made from silver, pearl, and quartz will be surprised to discover that the pieces are not merely attached, but are in fact interlocking and fit together as a puzzle.
Woe to anyone brave enough to dissasemble the bird for the interlockings are so complicated to stymie the attempts of even the wisest sages to attempt to understand how they interact.
It is said that the raptor still is missing a few crucial pieces, lost over the ages. What is to happen if those pieces were returned remains unknown to this day.
Gold Piece Value: 650gp
Gold Piece Value to a Gnome or sage aware of its status as a work of Glimzig Dalkor: 1280gp

On The Thursday Trick, The Hostile Enclosure

The Hostile Enclosure (Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger:Magical: Proximity Effects:Multiple Targets
Save: Strength
Armor Class
Duration:Varies
Resets: Automatic Bypass:Selective Trigger
Special

Description: While traveling down a corridor with strangely uneven walls, hands suddenly erupt and grab a hold of the players. They are then restrained until the eventual occurrence of a wandering monster at which point they can beg for help.
The hands strike out attempting to grab any PC along a stretch of corridor. They attack with a ThAC0 of 12 (Attack bonus +8) and 2-4 hands strike each player, each attempting to grab a different limb. The walls are stone and have 40 hit points each and ignore the first 8 points of damage from any strike. A PC may make a opposed strength check each round to break free from one of the hands. The stone hands are considered to have a strength of 20. Once grappled, each PC is attacked 2-4 times a round until each limb is securely held by three hands or 3-9 rounds pass (2d4+1). Each additional hand raises the difficulty of the strength check to escape by 4.

Detection/Disarming: The hands can either be seen as protrusions on the wall, or in a more magical place may actually extend out from a smooth unmarked wall. The hallway will likely be littered with equipment, skeletons and gear.
Once trapped, which is fairly likely the walls deactivate for all new entrants in the hall for 12 turns. This is to allow plenty of time for the wandering monsters to show up and accost their prey. The players may wish to beg or plead for safety at this point, though they may not have much to bargain with.
Any PC's with a limb free or only held by 1 hand may attack at a -2 penalty. They lose whatever advantage dexterity gave them to their armor class and are treated as prone for all attacks against them.

On Skill Deconstruction: Heal

Heal is a skill reflecting your ability to tend wounds and ailments. It uses the Wisdom stat as a modifier

This skill focuses on dying rules and aiding people afflicted by poison/wounding.

What can you do with Heal?

This skill allows you to stabilize the dying and increase the number of hit points recovered from rest. You can also alleviate certain conditions such as movement reduction from spike stones, caltrops and spike growth.

Once per day you can use this to restore hit points to damaged creatures, 1 per hit die, + your wisdom modifier if you roll a 25 or greater. You can finally use a successful heal check to increase a poison or disease save by +4.

Which of these have ground for use?

If you are going to allow healers to improve the save chance by +20% I can see the chance of success of the skill being useful for that - but as far as giving up your combat round to bandage someone who is bleeding out it is annoying to have the possibility of failure. Is what we are doing here simulating realism? Regardless, the check for first aid is just 15, which means this is another skill where a first level character with any wisdom bonus at all with heal as a class skill can just take ten to succeed which for all intents and purposes turns this into a function of class role.

When recovering hit points during resting, do you want the player to roll every day for greater hit point gain? Does anyone play that way?

Current Analysis 

There are people who would make the argument of game design from realism - perhaps they are too badly wounded to staunch the wound. Perhaps they might not succeed at stopping the bleeding. Again, I am not concerned for realism in games, I'm concerned about having fun with my friends. I don't consider a situation where one person is already out of play waiting for the combat to be over improved by taking another person out of play for multiple turns because the rolled low.

What is it we gain by having this skill?

Primarily a method of allowing non-cleric/druid/paladin/rangers to fulfill their roll by level 5.

What do we lose?

The mini-game of 'give up your turn to keep another player from dying' win/lose dynamic can increase tension and interest, but I remain unconvinced it's actually fun. It reminds me of streaks where I miss in battle and the associated frustration, except now it sucks for the player who can't do anything while they are bleeding out as well as the person who for some reason can't stop their bleeding/poison.

I also do not see any advantage in tracking these rolls and increasing resting hit points. It is less fun then other activities that can be taking place. 

Conclusions & Suggestions:
I would eliminate this skill entirely, and simply allow PC's to give up their turn to bandage their fellows when they fall in battle. I allow anyone with a character trait focused on healing or first aid to provide that aid to those that are poisoned or wounded at the cost of an turn either in combat or out- more then enough of a cost to justify the benefit.

On Skill Deconstruction: Handle Animal

Handle Animal is a skill reflecting your ability to calm and train animals. It uses the Charisma stat as a modifier

Handle animal is a simple mechanic for interacting with animals. The class ability to diplomance an animal (and improve it's reaction to the party) remains the purview of rangers.

What can you do with Handle Animal?

This skill allows you to both train and prompt animals to perform tricks. You can handle an animal, causing it to perform a trick it knows, or push an animal to perform a trick it doesn't know. You can teach an animal a specific trick, or train an animal for a general purpose giving it a suite of skills or even domesticate a wild animal. You can teach an animal to attack, come, defend, flee (down),  fetch, guard, heel, perform, seek, stay, track and work. An animal can be trained for combat, fighting, guarding, heavy labor, hunting, performing and ride.
 


Which of these have ground for use?

This seems more like a profession then an individual skill. I believe it's been moved over into the territory of an individual skill because it has applications in combat. Most of the skills and their subsystem seem reasonably applicable as a system for training and using animals in a campaign.

Current Analysis

This skill really comes down to frequency of use. Do you use or command animals enough to be useful? In every campaign I've participated in, this skill was never used for animal companions and there were rarely other animals in the game besides that.

The general idea is that a character gives up his move action to convince an animal to do a trick, and can spend his whole round trying to get the animal to do a trick it doesn't know. Druids and Rangers get an advantage in allowing tricks as free actions and the ability to push an animal as a move action.

I've played Druids before, many times, and have never recalled being asked to roll a handle animal check. The animal was just treated as an adjunct to the player, performing whatever task I as the player decided. How many DM's just hand-waved the skill and let the Druid or Ranger use the animal as a secondary weaker PC? All of them.

Is this not how most tables ran druids and rangers?

What is it we gain by having this skill?

A method for interacting with and training animals.

What do we lose?

I am not certain that this is a particularly effective way to demonstrate the vaunted 'character differentiation', but the d20 roll and the use of this skill works just fine as a model for training and commanding animals. Even though the roll is a pass/fail roll, the fact that you're influencing animals allows you to treat failures as partial successes, leading to interesting game-play.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
I think this system for animal control is fine. If actually used, it could mitigate some of the 'I have an animal companion so I get two turns on my turn' issues with Druids and Rangers.

Alternately, being that I've never had it used when playing a Druid, Ranger or Mounted Knight, I could also just eliminate the skill entirely.

On Skill Deconstruction: Fly & Ride

Fly is a skill reflecting your ability to maneuver aerially. Ride is your ability to ride and control mounts. They use the Dexterity stat as a modifier

Fly is another one of those skills that's been around in the system since long ago, when it was known as maneuverability class. It is especially relevant for modern games like Pathfinder, because around level 10 the majority of a party gains access to flight. In the last Pathfinder campaign I played in very much resembled a team of supers all moving to their destination, where some had access to flight and others did not, leading to some carrying the others. Pathfinder is actually an improvement because it pushes back total party flight to level 10. Even this ceases to become an issue around level 14 when the various teleport spells become available.

Ride is a more recent addition to the game, the first rules I can recall coming from Unearthed Arcana. Rules were given for cavaliers to avoid certain dire fates if their horse die or rear up. This skill effectively allows you to ride a mount. I have used this in certain specific setups geared around players on mounts, but not only does this situation come up rarely, but the skill in play turns out to be not that enjoyable. It's another "Roll the Die to avoid the crappy outcome" skill which doesn't seem to be increasing anyone's fun, but is added under the auspices of realism.

What can you do with Flight?

This is a system for resolving flight maneuver. Normal flight is assumed and these maneuver are used and based on a pass/fail resolution. You may attempt to move half your speed, hover, perform a steep turn or even a 180° turn, or fly up at an angle more than 45°.

What can you do with Ride?

Well, use a horse. It's assumed that if you don't have the skill that you need at least 1 hand to guide the mount, that you have a 70%+ chance to stay in the saddle if you get hit, you take a move action to mount or dismount, and that if the mount attacks you will lose your attack. The rest of the selections are tricks like use your mount for cover, take no damage when falling off a mount, getting the sucker to jump or go faster than normal, use a non-combat trained animal as a mount in combat or get on or off the mount as a free action.

Which of these have ground for use?

Minimal uses. The entirety of this system was covered in first editions by giving you a flat maneuverability class that dictated which of these maneuvers you could perform. Is this skill improved by making it a random possibility of the advanced maneuvers?

The problem with the ride skill is that for anyone who does end up taking the ride skill you have to manage controlling the mount in addition to your normal combat actions, slowing down each turn as you roll dice to check and see if you accomplish your goals. Anyone who is a mount user better print out the Ride section because you'll be referring to it a lot.

Also: let's hope we get to have a fight somewhere that isn't a dungeon, mountain, swamp or castle. Uhhh, how often does that happen again?

Current Analysis

I am unconvinced that the method of rolling versus a DC adds enough to the game to be worth the time it takes to roll the extra die during movement. After all, player characters on the ground certainly do not have to roll to move their full movement, or do an about face or other maneuvers. This is clearly an example of a desire to have some realistic differentiation between differing types of fliers and the skills of riders - one that 1st edition addressed by simply having a category for each type of flyer or assuming everyone who is an adventurer could, you know, ride a horse. The flip side of this is the desire for improvement - can a human caster get better at flying? Is that really something we wish to model with character creation?

Who will be taking fly? Wizards. And monsters with natural flight, leaving us with the same categories we used to have based on their base fly skill + 10. Casters themselves get a bonus from the spell equal to 1/2 their level, meaning they need not put any points into it.

What is it we gain by having this skill?

A randomized method of resolving aerial and mounted combat maneuvers. Determining flight results in pathfinder is a much larger issue in pathfinder where after level 6-8 most casters are in combat while flying and invisible.

What do we lose?

Time. Is the added complexity of tracking aerial or mounted combat worth the benefit the skill provides?

Conclusions & Suggestions:
Flying is difficult enough without adding more complexity. Ditch the skill and go back to maneuverability classes - if running pathfinder, assume that every monster and character can accomplish whatever taking 10 allows them to do.

Why not simply allow people to either know how to ride or not? This is almost what the skill does already. Put 1 point in ride, +3 class ranks, +1 stat means that with a take 10 you can do all the mount skills without chance of failure except for using non-combat mounts and fast mounting and dismounting.

On A Happy Holiday

So, I don't celebrate Christmas. I'm not a fan of lying to children, I'm a minimalist and don't believe in consumerism, and as an atheist and skeptic the religious aspect is more than a little annoying. After all, if you lived with people who thought Zeus was real, you'd think they were pretty silly with their pagan rites and such.

(Hope that gives you some interesting reading on a Christmas morning)

However, you shouldn't let my personal views stop you from enjoying the blog. I hope everyone has enjoyed my 31 days of posts, and that the skill posts haven't become to interminable.

Remember to be thankful and live with present mindfulness!

Be here now!

Here's hoping everyone plays and participates in more games in 2012!

On Alchemical Items: Jasper Catagamma of Aegis

Happy Holidays everyone! Some Mineral Alchemy today!

Jasper Catagamma of Aegis
BSC:0%(R)gp:900 gp
DC:28TTC:4 days days
CC:12CGP::200 gp
NWP:-9XP:100 xp
D100:-25%Weight:- / 20
D6:0 in 6 / 7Difficulty:Formidable
RarityRare

MaterialsJasper (200 gp value), Rare Earths (4 drams), Powdered Platinum (5 drams) Bulette Shell/Armor (8 drams),
Description: When this catagamma is rubbed into the skin, it acts as shield that absorbs damage. It will reduce damage by 2 points per die, until a total of 80 points of damage has been absorbed (DR 2/- for a total of 80 points) or six turns have passed, whichever occurs first.

Rules are here.

On Interesting Treasure: Golden Statue of Sor-Pathis

Found in an ancient snake man temple, this sculpture is of the demon Sor-pathis. It depicts his two wheeled chariot and the barrel of hearts.
Every winter solstice Sor-pathis would travel among the creches of the snake men young and distribute his barrel of treasure.
The barrel was filled with the bloody hearts of the slave races who had escaped the yoke of serpent man rule. They were tracked down by Sor-pathis and slain, their hearts gleefully collected and returned to all ophidian-kind as a symbol of their eternal dominance over the mammalian slave folk.
This statue represents the physical aspect of Sor-pathis, who has long been banished to a sub-world far from the prime material where he has lain long dormant.
Perhaps this statue's recovery will change that. . .
Gold Piece Value: 450 gp

On The Best Way to Ruin Your Game

I said:
"So there is nothing wrong with smarter more social people being better at play, and players who are not social or creative or intelligent being worse and losing or doing badly on their own merits."


J. Michael Matkin writes in and says:

"If I have any misgivings from this otherwise wonderful series that you are doing, it's this. At what point does adventure gaming allow me to step outside my own limitations and enable me to accomplish things that I could never do in real life?"

What a fantastic question.

My response is below.

I hesitate to reply to your comment, because I am absolutely certain you will not like the answer.

In an adventure game you can step outside of your limitations and slay princesses, rescue dragons, and subject a kingdom to your peaceful or terrifying rule.

Just because it is possible to do these things does not mean that you are entitled to get to do them.

It is a game, and it is one you can lose. What makes it worth playing and worth winning is that you can fail.

If you can't fail, if you just get the game handed to you on a silver platter, if there is no challenge, if there is no game to speak of, then it is just one person telling another how cool what they just thought of is. It is social masturbation. Affirmations.

Though that may feel good temporarily, it pales in comparison to actual victory where the possibilities for failure are real and the consequences are dire.

There when you succeed, you know you have accomplished a thing of worth. A thing that was accomplished because you were able to accomplish it, and another man might have failed.

This is why not fudging is important. This is why agency and player freedom matter. Because anything else removes any meaning from your victory.

On The Thursday Trick, Trapdoor Loft

Trapdoor Loft (Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure Plate Effects:Liquid
Never Miss
Multiple Targets
Alchemical Device
Save:Dexterity
Poison/Death
Rod/Staff/Wand
Duration: Instant
Resets:Manual Bypass:Disarm

Description: Somewhere in the ceiling ahead lies a deadly toxic substance. Upon triggering a hidden pressure plate a stone or wood door in the ceiling drops open and dumps entertaining substances on the party!

Detection/Disarming: Detect this as any trap door - it could be hidden or even secret. Also the trigger must be locatable, and the ceiling may show some signs of the existence of a trap door.

Signs may be present on the floor of the various kinds of things that can be dropped from the trap door.


Flaming Oil will leave scorch marks
Green Slime, Black Pudding or various other oozes, slimes and jellies will leave scarring and other signs of their presence.
Falling Rocks will leave dust, cracked stone and scrapes and scratches on the floor work
Garbage and Offal will leave stains and there may be a terrible stench depending on the ventilation.
Sand and Water can be released filling the space below. Both will leave telltale signs of their presence.

On why Realism and "Making Sense" are Terrible

I don't think I've talked about this before.

It's one of the most important things.

Making things more realistic ruins games. Changing things to have them "make sense" destroys fun.

I've written and designed computer games before and the most important lesson I learned from those experiences was to design fun mechanics and make the game about that fun. Jeff Vogel talks about it here.

Every time someone suggested a way to make the game 'more realistic', it never failed detract from the game. Add armor damage and wear and tear on weapons causes tedium. Make the monsters fight each other causes endless messages and rooms full of dead creatures. How about at a table? Making people remember to eat, go to the bathroom and feed horses? You've insured that the players recite a list of items at various intervals. Sounds super fun, right?

Why is it when people sit down to play or run role playing games they forget that they are playing a game? Is Jenga less fun because you don't use a crane? Is Monopoly less fun because you can't buy stocks or put your money in a bank? Is Risk less fun because you don't use supply lines?

Games have rules and mechanics. These are supposed to generate fun on their own merits. Over and over again I see people change games for the sake of 'realism' or to 'make sense', resulting in something that isn't fun just for its own sake. 

Take a game like Old School Hack. Not only is a beautiful piece of work, it's also super fun to play. It is not a traditional play the same character forever type of RPG, and the turn structure is certainly different then normal. When a friend of mine ran it, she wanted to change it because it wasn't what she was used to, because the new system didn't make sense to her. Trying it out we found out it was fun on its own merits.

Ask yourself, devoid of setting and flavor, is what I'm doing an enjoyable activity? This is not a subjective question. In a game, an enjoyable activity comes from making choices with significant consequences. I've been talking at length lately why combat is an enjoyable activity and rolling for skills is not. If you blocked out the pictures, flavor text, and names on the cards in Dominion, the game would still be mind-blowingly good.

Realism in game design is an easy trap to fall into, but it invariably results in poor, boring games. Ask yourself why you are making any change, and if the answer isn't "this is objectively more fun because it provides either more choices or choices with more significant consequences resulting in more interesting play for the players," then don't make the change.

How will you ever know if you like something new if you just change it into what came before?

On Skill Deconstruction: Escape Artist


Escape Artist is a skill reflecting your ability to free yourself from bindings. It uses the Dexterity stat as a modifier.

What can you do with Escape Artist?

This is a skill that is used to replace other mechanics - it allows your training to replace your combat maneuver defense for grapples and your ability escape from binds and chains. 

Which of these have ground for use? 

If you're doing this, it does what it says on the tin.

Current Analysis 

This is a classic example of both a skill that is not needed and one that is often valued under the auspices of character customization.

The argument was presented that an auto-escape  is the only method of handling this skill without a skill roll. I should point out that this is the way the skill works currently in a non-time critical situation. Either you can take 20 and your results succeeds or you can't - and since the DM is setting the DC and knows the value of the Escape Artist skill of the players he just decides if they can escape or not. This is just as unfun as the DM just deciding you can or can't get free without the skill.

So what's the solution?

Assume that no matter the bonds they can free themselves in 2-4 turns, unless the bonds are the imprisonment spell or a force bubble in which case you should fast forward to the point when the characters can do something.

In a situation where the result is time limited, you again have the problem of skills bypassing play.

"Only if I fail this roll do I actually have to play the game," the player thinks.

Perhaps this is what you want, perhaps you want players playing rogues to be able to just escape quickly without having to detail how they do it. I don't think that there is anything wrong with this approach, but to me it's just another way to bypass an interesting situation.

How is it an interesting situation? From the post of Confanity himself, he says: "I treat it as an opportunity for problem-solving. Do they search for something sharp to rub the rope against? Dip it in their plate of prison slop and offer it to the rats? Simply wait for rescue? Ignore the bonds and mock the prison guard? Why would you want to steal this storytelling opportunity from them?"

Why would I want a roll to bypass all that? 

What is it we gain by having this skill?

Well, it only applies in two situations: One, when you're replacing your normal defense to avoid grapples and pins; Two, when you have a limited amount of time to escape from bonds. Given enough time you'll be able to take 20 to attempt to escape from bonds.

What do we lose?

An opportunity to foster player creativity. When found in one of these situations "player characters are trapped", it seems more enjoyable to allow the players to attempt to think their way out of the situation. The other option: the player says "I take 20."

Conclusions & Suggestions:

Is the idea to allow certain classes (thief/rogue) to be better then it would otherwise seem at dealing with grapples and pins? Then simply allow them to do so. If they are captured, let them come up with a solution to get free.

On Skill Deconstruction: Disguise

Disguise is a skill reflecting your skill at changing your appearance. It uses the Charisma stat as a modifier

What can you do with Disguise?

It is your ability at changing your appearance. When you do you make the check once, and everyone then uses that as their perception target number.

It is assumed most people are taking 10 on these checks, which is another example of the elimination of randomness among the use of the skills.

Which of these have ground for use?

I think this skill is one that clearly falls under the 'no skill is necessary' category. It comes up rarely enough that we probably don't need a system for dealing with it.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

The ability to give a target number that once passed means the skill is seen through.

What do we lose?

A good deal of play. If we work from the assumption that the skill provides, that most characters with a minimal skill or a first level spell will be able to disguise themselves beyond cursory detection, then we create a situation where the only time an actual roll is called for is when the character does something suspicious.

Why are we bothering to roll the dice at all? What benefit to play does it provide?

If we assume that the players are competent heroes, and that they are disguised against inspection, then they simply have to do in character research to avoid being suspicious. Then if they fail, let their actual skill at explanation replace their die roll. Both processes of doing the research and fast talking yourself out of the situation are more interesting then just rolling the die and adding modifiers. At this point it seems a function of whatever social interaction / combat system you use. It doesn't even have to be up to the Dungeon Master - the party could take a vote or perhaps expend some sort of social resource.

Some people might complain that certain players might not be as good at these things as others. That is a core feature of games - not a bug. They require skill, not just luck. So there is nothing wrong with smarter more social people being better at play, and players who are not social or creative or intelligent being worse and losing or doing badly on their own merits.

This, I think, people need to realize applies to life.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

My preference is to eliminate the skill and simply assume the player can disguise themselves effectively. Then I would allow the players own skill at research and fast talking to represent their success.

On Skill Deconstruction: Disable Device & Slight of Hand

Disable Device is a skill reflecting your mechanical ability. Slight of hand is a skill reflecting your ability to take action secretly.  They uses the Dexterity stat as a modifier.


What can you do with Disable Device & Slight of hand?

These are more skills that have existed for a long time in the game - though in older editions it was called Pick Pockets, Open Locks, and Remove Traps.

Disable Device allows you to disable or sabotage devices or open locks. Classes with trapfinding (rogues) can disable magical traps. Slight of hand allows you to palm objects or remove object from people without them noticing.

Which of these have ground for use?

I am not personally a fan of Disable Device, though by the assessment there is nothing wrong with it.

Pick Pockets, er, Slight of Hand is a case where a skill is almost certainly necessary because of the nature of conflict. It takes place under time constraints, against an opponent, has a serious consequence for failure, can't be modeled at the table and can model a partial result.

I have currently been running games where this Disable Device is not used, and disarming traps and opening locks depends on player skill adjusted for class almost exclusively. For an example of the system I've been using you can check out the Locks and Keys .pdf which is Zak Sabbath's system for opening locks with modifiers for thief skills and using the reverse of the system to disable traps..

Current Analysis

Disable Device is another skill that can easily turn into a skill tax skill. The systems usually are only able to use traps to great effect till about level 8. It's mostly dependent on the ability of your DM to continue to scale the DC's correctly.

Slight of Hand works as is practically with no modification

What is it we gain by having this skill?

A quick simple way to determine the ability of a character to open a lock or disable a trap and a mechanism for picking pockets.

We also gain quite a bit of role protection for the thief type classes.

What do we lose?

As I've handled it in my games before, there is space for an interesting mini-game to replace this that relies on player skill. I also find that allowing each trap to instead work as a trick with various intractable parts can lead to much more entertaining results then simply getting it out of way with a roll. Allowing the characters to attempt to trigger a trap so they can pass or allowing them to disable it by clever thinking seems more interesting than a quick roll.

For those that have some anxiety about describing how traps might work, there are plenty of resources on-line. Not only my Empty Room, Tricks & Trap design supplement but other bloggers discussing trigger mechanisms and more. There are also plenty of ways to allow class selection and level to provide relevance to your ability to open locks and disable traps.

Very little in the case of Slight of Hand.  The skills existence may cause the players to do things they otherwise wouldn't, but in the long run that may be a positive influence on the game.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
Either keep this skill as is, or develop an interesting mini-game regarding this skill that your players enjoy. Suggestions are welcome.

On Alchemical Items: Elixir of Unguis


Elixir of Unguis
BSC:40%(R)gp:300 gp
DC:20TTC:1 day
CC:4CGP::75 gp
NWP:-1XP:150 xp
D100:+15%Weight:- / 20
D6:3 in 6 / 4Difficulty:Difficult
RarityVery Rare

Materials: Pure Clear Water (1 ounce), Rare Earths (1 dram), Mimic Flesh/Transmutation (4 drams), Moonstone (5 carats), Powdered Gold (2 drams)
Description: This elixir causes the imbiber to grow terrifying and powerful talons in place of their nails. Her fingers lengthen and extend and sharp hard claws extend from the tips of her fingers. For the duration of the potion she may make two claw attacks each round doing 1d6 + Strength points of damage.

Rules are here.

On Interesting Treasure: Copper Key

This strange key is made from copper. It is on a silver chain and bound with silver thread. Attached to the bow are 12 platinum chain links leading to a unique copper gear.
The origin of this key is uncertain - is it simply decorative or does it actually function? If it does, do the extra gears and attachments serve any purpose?
Gold Piece Value: 35 gp

On The Thursday Trick, The Door of Subtle Demise

The Door of Subtle Demise

Trigger: Magical: Proximity Effects:Never Miss
Save:None Duration:1d8+2 rounds
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None (Avoid)

Description: This door differs from the rest of the doors in the complex. It will have deceptions of death or some sort of death imagery on the door.
Any living creature may pass through the door without effect, excepting a minor chill as if experiencing the first winter wind.
Anytime any non-living creature is carried or falls through the door instantly become animated as a zombie created from the animate dead spell for 1d8 +2 rounds. They immediately lash out at all nearby  targets, clawing and attacking for the duration of the effect.
Creatures that become zombies gain one more hit die of the type they had in life and their armor class improves by 2. They also become resistant to slashing weapons. They gain a slam attack that does 1d8 damage plus one more than their strength bonus to attack. (i.e. if they had a +2 damage bonus from strength, their slam does 1d8+3) They also always attack last in the round. (+1 HD, +2 AC, Slam attack 1d8 + 1 + Strength, always attack last or in pathfinder, staggered condition)
This door should be located near the entrance to the dungeon to insure that any bodies leaving are hacked to pieces before they can be resurrected.
Detection/Disarming: The door is not hidden, and any living creature can detect the magical effect by the chill that passes over them as they walk through the door. Wizards can note the taint of necromantic magic, and thieves can easily detect the magical nature of the door.
Determining what the door does on the other hand can be a much more complicated task, requiring either divination magic or testing by the player characters.

As mentioned in the comments, credit for this trap goes to Greenwood and Undermountain.

On Why Your Race Data is Useless!

If you haven't noticed, over to the right is a poll. I've got several hundred readers, so go ahead and click through to vote people!

Free yourself from your RSS feed and come tell me what you think. It's been too long since you visited the blog anyway!

How else am I going to collect useless data!?

Let's waste our time and navel gaze together! Do it now before you forget.

On Skill Deconstruction: Diplomacy

Diplomacy is a skill reflecting your ability to influence opponent reactions. It uses the Charisma stat as a modifier

What can you do with Diplomacy?

It allows you to alter the reaction of another living creature. It also replaces gather information in pathfinder.

It is very important to realize that this exact skill (though with a better bell curve implementation of it) has been in the game for over 30 years, making it crucial to the way the game plays.

Which of these have ground for use?

All of it.

It is necessary to have a DM independent method of determining the reactions of non-player characters and monsters.

The problem comes from this being a skill - the original table served as a tool to determine monster reactions - the vast majority of which were neutral or uncertain. A certain rare number would automatically attack, and rarer still would be helpful.

This was one of the most powerful uses of charisma in the older games, the other being allowed henchmen once second level - extra first level fighters are nothing to sneeze at. The die roll being a bell curve allowed charisma to have a powerful influence on the result making a much greater percentage of monsters helpful then they would be otherwise.

This skill contains a subtle conceptual difference from earlier editions. In earlier editions this roll was used to determine the monster reaction. In modern editions the monster reaction is pre-decided and this roll influences the monster reaction.

Current Analysis
This roll is one of the core elements of Dungeons and Dragons. There is an encounter, and for every encounter a 'reaction' is rolled for. Many people ignore or house rule this - but it is a core element of game play on par with Armor Class and To Hit rolls on d20s.

The problem is with this not being tied to the power of charisma and instead built into a skill it allows power gaming the system, how so? At 10th level a summoner could have (10 ranks, +5 Charisma, +5 magic item, +2 spell buff, +3 class bonus, +6 feat bonus) 31 ranks in bluff allowing him on a roll of 1 to turn hostile creatures to unfriendly and on a roll of 4 to shift it to indifferent the maximum allowable shift. This could literally provide a way to overcome every single combat encounter - simply diplomance them away.

You could of course do the suggestion most people make when you talk about the problem with the skills - create situations to specifically neutralize the skill, but it's pretty clear why that's an unacceptable solution.

EDIT: I've reviewed Rich Burlew's diplomacy skills and he's identified several problems and proposed some D20 solutions. He notes the roll being too easy, the indeterminate nature of the target like a master wizard being influenced the same as a potato farmer, the lack of any sort of definition of what the terms such as 'friendly' and 'indifferent' mean, the results of the check being vague, and the lack of any sort of failure.

His solutions include adding two sets of modifiers and clarifying the results of success more quantitatively. This is creating a whole new subsystem, but continuing to use the D20. Although I'm not a fan of the randomness curve, this is a potential solution to this conundrum.

What is it we gain by having this skill?

We gain a D20 compatible method for determining monster reactions.

What do we lose?

We need a monster reaction solution for this game - I just don't know that a player skill is the way to go.

Diplomacy can turn into a skill tax skill.

It isn't used to determine monster reactions, only influence them, and it's possible to break an old school type game by level 10, which is two through four levels past when it normally breaks anyway.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
I think that this would be better handled by it not being a skill. I have no problem with someone being skilled in diplomatic relations giving them a flat one or two bonus to a bell curve roll to influence monster reactions. But as a skill tax skill, I don't really see the benefit.

On Skill Deconstruction: Craft

Craft is a skill reflecting your ability to make things. It uses the Intelligence stat as a modifier

What can you do with Craft?

Make stuff.

There is a flat mechanic in craft for producing half your check result in gold pieces per dedicated week of work.

If you actually wish to craft an item, there is a fairly complicated process involving taking it's value in silver pieces. You then make a check and multiply by the DC of the item and that is your 'progress' in silver pieces in making the item.

Which of these have ground for use?

I have mixed feelings. I can certainly tell you that after a certain level of proficiency I've never failed to complete a drawing. Some have not turned out the way I like, but it wasn't due to random variance in skill. It was due to either a lack of skill, or a new technique.

With something like alchemy or baking, a certain random element is good, because there are vagaries of temperature, air pressure, and other variables that are outside of control.

I have never been a blacksmith or a fletcher. Perhaps a trained blacksmith (1 rank + 3 class bonus + 1 Intelligence) fails and ruins 25% of the longswords they make.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

It is a quick system to generate an earned integer of gold pieces every week. It allows characters to produce basic equipment at a reduced cost. It also allows characterization, defining a character beyond class roles or things they can do in combat.

What do we lose?

I'm not sure - no, wait, I am sure that no dungeon master anywhere ever has tracked silver pieces per day multiplying them out to determine when the item is completed. If you ever have, please let me know

Also, I'm having difficulty seeing the system as one that intends to determine the goodness of a product with high granularity. An argument was presented recently that in this or in a profession skill the degree of the roll indicates the goodness of the result.

This is objectively incorrect.

The system clearly intends the roll to indicate the speed at which the task is accomplished, and the goodness of the task is set by the creator.

I'm going to create a masterpiece of a painting - I set the value at 10,000 gp and the DC is 20 (for highly complex) and then I'm off. Even with one rank in craft if I keep plugging away at it long enough it will be accomplished (even if I waste a metric ton of materials)!

Making a bunch of arguments over whether that's accurate to real world examples is pointless. The real question is:

How is this implementation of the skill improving my game?

I do not believe that it does so.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

The granularity is too high. Also, it doesn't represent how actual craftsmanship works (in that you are not likely to fail in many cases).

I am fond of a 'non-weapon' proficiency system for such things - allowing a level of proficiency, and then further focuses of mastery and grand-mastery.

Most systems run such a skill as a great/pass/delayed/failed/disaster system which is something I find perfectly workable for alchemy, but as far as forging and other type of craft activities, I much prefer two to five levels of granularity and not forcing checks in order to produce - just requiring the time and materials seems to be enough.

On Skill Deconstruction: Climb

Climb is a skill reflecting your ability to climb. It uses the Strength stat as a modifier


Check out my Sexy Alternate Picture
What can you do with Climb?

Maybe it's the alcohol, but seriously have you seen this skill?

Why is it this damn complicated?!

It's about moving vertically, on surfaces greater than 60 degrees.

Which of these have ground for use? 

Even in a tactical game I have a hard time understanding how any of the uses of the climb skill are worth taking table time to use.

If there are no time constraints, then why bother with this at all? Just assume if the players have the gear then they can climb any surface.

This critique is certainly not limited to modern games. While reviewing the campaign notes of a (now deceased, Rest In Peace Jim Frost!) GM that used to run games for my father, he notes making 10 dexterity checks to climb a hill leading to where water is running out.

Do people not realize what is happening at the table when you are sitting around with friends?

Anyone, any of the greats, anyone involved with third edition rules, fourth edition rules - any paragons of modern design, can anyone tell me one single thing that is gained by requiring player characters to make a check to move? In what way does this improve the game? Oh, I move half my speed instead of one quarter!? Awesome. Oh, in order to do that I have to risk falling? Clearly this is worth opening up the book and trying to decipher which of the four uses of eight difficulties with three modifiers is worth using.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

Some desperate sense of completeness and anal retentive design aesthetic.

What do we lose?

So, let's say you're running first edition and you've got a thief. Common refrain - "What do you mean I can't climb walls?!"

A common complaint. You can of course. Just like you can hide! Anyone can climb walls! Anyone can hide. What thieves can do is hide in the very shadows themselves. What climb allows them to do is scale unclimbable walls or climb walls anyone can climb quickly and without equipment. Notice the success rates? They start at 60% and have modifiers that drive climbing up reasonable surfaces upwards of 100% at first level.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

Here's an idea. If you have skill at climbing (rangers on mountains, thieves on walls) then you can move up walls at one half your speed - otherwise you're at one quarter your speed. While climbing you don't get your dexterity bonus to AC.

Climbing rules one thousand percent faster and they amount to the same thing without players playing the roll a die - lose your turn game.

What's more is that this only comes up in super-rare conditions, when climbing is necessary in combat or in time limited constraints. I literally cannot recall this being an occurrence in any game I've ever ran - even in a pathfinder game revolving around nothing but having epic session long combats in unique environements.

I'm looking forward to any defense of this skill. Also, check out my sexy alternate picture of thigh climbing.

On Alchemical Items: Goo Bubble Grenade

Goo Bubble Grenade
BSC:15%(R)gp:100 gp
DC:25TTC:10 days
CC:9CGP::20 gp
NWP:-6XP:10 xp
D100:+10%Weight:- / 20
D6:1 in 6 / 6Difficulty:Very hard
RarityRare

Materials: Sugar, Glycerin, Gum Arabic, Gelatinous Cube Gel/Stasis Essence (1 dram)  Rare Earths (1 dram)
Description: This glass globe is hermetically sealed and filled with a translucent foamy green liquid. When hurled at an opponent, upon striking the sphere shatters shatters and the goo begins to immediately react with the air. Any target struck by the Goo Bubble Grenade must make a save versus paralyzation (Reflex save DC 16) or become entangled in sticky binding foam that rapidly begins to harden. If the save is failed, the targets movement is cut in half, and the target is at -2 on all attack rolls and saving throws (The character gains the entangled condition. An entangled creature moves at half speed, cannot run or charge, and takes a –2 penalty on all attack rolls and a –4 penalty to Dexterity. An entangled character who attempts to cast a spell must make a concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) or lose the spell).
After 2 turns (20 combat rounds) the goo dries out, and flakes off. There is no splash damage besides little spots of disgusting goo.

Rules are here.

On Interesting Treasure: Ancient Brass Calendar

This brass plate contains detailed engravings. The engravings are of a high quality and represent a calendar of the ancients.
The center represents various periods throughout history and the future and has numerical significance with the markings contained within certain angular ratios.
The plate is interesting because it is one of the few brass artifacts found from this ancient civilization and this indicates part of the plates special purpose as a tool. It is part of an ancient timekeeping mechanism and allows you to interpret the data in that hidden sepulchre.
Perhaps another artifact nearby has clues to the location of this ancient mechanism.
Gold piece value: 80 gp
Gold piece value to a collector: 1000+gp

On The Thursday Trick: The Kissing Maiden

In honor of the only trap in Skyrim to cause me to die. Twice.

Swinging Grate (Melee Attack)
Trigger: Pressure PlateEffects: None
Save: WandsDuration: Instant
Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)
Disarm

Description: Often triggered by a pressure plate that releases tension, this trap swings forward impaling anyone standing in its way. This can be a single sharp post (al' la the original Conan movie), an entire wall, or even a statue of a beautiful woman. The trap often comes equipped with a counterweight for automatic rearming.

Detection: In the vast majority of cases this trap must be visible. It can be camouflaged or concealed, but the impaling mechanism can be seen. Common means of camouflaging the trap include vegetation growing on the mechanism, dim light, and angled walls and corners.

There are often blood spots on the floor and end point of the traps arc of execution. Even if successful, there will rarely be a body, due to its tendency to become impaled on the trap itself. If struck by a trap with a body already in it, damage might be mitigated. Bodies or skeletons hanging without supports on the wall might be another way to detect this trap.

More subtle means of detection include the hollow space where the counterweight resides. This will often be in either a wall or floor. The trap can be disarmed, but this almost universally results in the trap being triggered because it is under tension. Having a firm grip on the trap and releasing the tension slowly is one option, another is to not be where the trap is triggered.

On Losing Race

I fully support your half-dragon/half-gnome bard illusionist in my game.

I just think you're stupid for wanting to play that.

There are no literary pretensions to role-playing games - they are most importantly games focused around sitting in a room spending time with people you like.

So if playing a cat person or dragon person is what makes you happy, I should be ok with that.

I should point out that I do not run games of the modern mindset of the 'my precious encounter' theory of game design. The characters are pieces in the sense that they are avatars for your interaction in the world, but not pieces as literal pieces on a game board where the entire focus of the evening is on tactical play. Though that can be awesome fun, and the issue I'm talking about is pretty much a non-issue for miniatures games and 4e/3e tactical style play. 

For games that include some verisimilitude it does in fact become an issue. What is the fascination with non-humans as player characters?

They are, by definition of being non-human, universally less interesting as characters.

What is the fascination with playing a non-human race? Is it the desire to do something different? If so why do the same thing over and over again? (That thing being playing a weird-non human race)

Is it the power and the bonuses? I would gladly let any human just take whatever bizarre racial package bonuses you are talking about and try to explain it away (making for a much more interesting human).

I don't like having to say no to players and their fun. If what makes them happy is playing a weird animal person, then more power to them, (in fact I had to use 'weird animal person' there because any example I gave would apply to some current or past player who reads this blog). But what is being communicated to me is "I plan on playing a very uninteresting character".

Clearly the solution is to play a system that restricts such things such as Labyrinth Lord or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, though even in the Labyrinth Lord game, one of my players asked for a different kind of elf.

I have been giving this a lot of thought lately, because it is my openness to player choice that has caused me such difficulties in creating a coherent setting. Part of this could be addressed I think by being able to create that coherent setting and allowing people to play someone 'from the Spanish place' or 'the french place'.

On Skill Deconstruction: Bluff

Bluff is a skill reflecting your ability to deceive and lie. It uses the Charisma stat as a modifier


What can you do with Bluff?

Lie: Bluff allows you to have your lies believed. It is opposed by Sense Motive and modified by the believability of the lie and the condition of your opponent.

Feint: You can use bluff in combat to Feint. This allows you to cause your opponent to lose their Dexterity bonus to armor class on your next attack against them. This is a standard action, which means it takes your turn to accomplish. The difficulty is 10+BAB+Wisdom bonus, or 10+Sense Motive whichever is higher. It's more difficult to accomplish against unarmed opponents and non-intelligent opponents. There is a feat which allows you to do this and make an attack in the same turn.

Secret Messages: This allows you to pass secret messages - that is communicate with party members in code in front of other people. It is a DC 15 check for simple messages and a DC 20 check for more complicated ones.

Which of these have ground for use?

What we are talking about here is a mechanism for social conflict. And looking at our desires for what we want social combat to accomplish it is a passable mechanic.

I'd prefer a more entertaining subsystem - perhaps with a greater degree of player skill involved. This reduces lying to an attack roll using charisma as the modifier against a fluctuating AC modified by Wisdom. I think there is something much more entertaining that can be done with this skill.

Perhaps some sort of card mechanic to simulate social resources, or perhaps like in a debate where certain stances are selected and then RPS arguments are made and success is determined by a modified roll. Or something more entertaining then an attack roll that basically comes down to 'pass/fail'

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

A simple quick system for answering the question - does the target believe me?

What do we lose?

Some interest and value to be extracted from this conflict. The success of the skill is all or nothing which is very uninteresting, there is no degree of success.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

Bluff is one of the checks that is generally an opposed check, so is particularly susceptible to the high variance of the d20 roll. In defense of bluff, it is a skill where a pretty substantial variance is an accurate representation of the process of deceiving another person.

Usually when constructing one of these situations (NPC's and social conflicts) it is more interesting to create a set of interesting choices for the players to make rather then a straight roll to determine the achievement of the goal.

This is really my core argument against skills handled this way. Let's play a game of 'you win' isn't a very engaging activity. ("Roll a die, if it's over 10 you win!") I am not saying this always happens, but this is a specific case where it can occur frequently. Any decision made or skill that is used turns into a modifier (+/- 5 in this case). And then you win or lose based on the roll. Often Winning means 'bypass having to come up with an actual solution' which is code for 'bypassing playing the game' and losing means 'we're forced to actually play the game'.

This is fundamentally less fulfilling then providing the players with an interesting choice.

But in snap situations like a guard coming around the corner the roll becomes more interesting because the consequence is more interesting (having to engage in combat).

On Skill Deconstruction: Appraise

Appraise is a skill reflecting your ability to assess the monetary value of an object. It uses the Intelligence stat as a modifier


What can you do with Appraise?

Well, basically what it says on the tin. It's a DC 20 check for common items. Success means you know the value. Five over and you can sense magic. Five under and you get it within 80% (+/- 20% of value). Less than that and your result is random. Rare items may be more difficult to identify in increments of 5.

An interesting sub-ability of this skill is the 'which of these is most valuable' when given a selection of items in a room.

What ground is there for having this be a skill?

Is not knowing the value of treasure a worthwhile addition to the play of the game at the table?

There are no time constraints to this skill (except for some iterations of the sub-ability use) and that means that any character can do research and find out the actual value of the item. Assuming that this isn't the case for some reason there are a variety of situations where this skill can come into play:

1.) You can be out in the dungeon or on the adventure and be at the limit of your encumbrance and have to decide what to take.
2.) You can be back at town and need to know if the value of the goods is near to what the merchant is offering you.
3.) You can be in a room under time constraints and need to decide what the most valuable item is.
4.) One of the players may lie to another player about the value of a good.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

We have a way for characters to either know or not know the value of the treasure they recieve that doesn't come in gold pieces.

What do we lose?

Time. A whole lot of spending time.

Lets look at each of the options in turn:

1.) You can go down your inventory list and item by item while the DM makes your appraisal rolls and tells you the estimated value of each item.
2.) As above, except at the end, he gives the price the merchant will pay.
3.) The DM makes the roll and tells you or doesn't tell you what the most valuable item in the room is.
4.) The DM makes the check for the slighted party and informs them what their perceived value of the item is.

Let's address 1 & 3 first.

How is sitting there and reading the results of dice and then making a decisions based on strictly numerical information ("Well we don't know the value of these, so we keep them, and these are worthless") superior to actually describing what the characters possess and letting them investigate which items are valuable and then make their own decisions about what to keep and drop or what to filtch?

In number 2, how is the game improved once the player are back in town by a long tedious process of appraising every single item to insure the value is the correct one. Is there some enjoyment from this process? I can see this being interesting for the low level characters or the poor, but at that point in the game the appraise skill hasn't had a chance to be developed. Are they going to be shorted some gold - is this worth valuable table time? Do you really want to simulate this at downtime?

Regarding number 4, I am not interested in providing tools for the players to engage in competitive play with each other. Some may be - stealing and lying to party members may be a large part of many games, but Dungeons and Dragons is a game about parties of adventurers. There is a tacit understanding that the thief (who takes a lot of risks) may end up filching a little extra gold. Because of the massive experience point bonus that provides to the thief this makes the whole party stronger.

Lastly and most damning - this skill is one of the easiest to portray at the table. The players know the relative value of metals and gemstones and generally have very good tools for finding out about the world around them. This should allow them to estimate the value of goods with a fair degree of accuracy.

This is an example of a skill where the roll is much, much less interesting then the actual player skill and decision making involved.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
  • Eliminate the skill completely.

On Skill Deconstruction: Acrobatics

This is the first post discussing individual skills. I'm going to use the pathfinder list, because they have distilled the skills into the broad categories in an attempt to cover 'everything'. This makes it a good framework for looking at the types of conflict in games. We'll be using the principles of When to Roll A Skill Roll and Ways to Make Skill Rolls Effective.

I should also point out at the start of this series, that I enjoy playing a game that caps out at the human power level. This is not the default state of the pathfinder/3.x rule-set. The most common way to address this issue in pathfinder is to run an E6 (E8, E12 whatever) game. I will include examples of the scaling.

My analysis of the skills below is my interpretation of their utility. Discussion is welcome. There are many more solutions then the ones I outline. Please leave your own suggestions in the comments.

Acrobatics is a skill reflecting physical ability and agility. It uses the dexterity stat as a modifier.

What can you do with Acrobatics?

 Balance: Any situation in which you wish to balance on a surface less than 2" in width has a DC 20. 1" width is DC 40, Hair-thin is DC 60, Liquid or any surface incapable of supporting a characters weight is DC 90, and standing on condensed water vapor (clouds) is DC 120

Jump: For each success, you can jump 1 foot horizontally with a running start of at least 10'. You need 4 successes for each vertical foot. (from our previous example, of an acrobatics skill of 37, this means that on the mythical average roll, a level 15 character can jump nearly 50', or 13' straight up.)
     Increased land speed gives a bonus of +4 per 10' over 30, meaning a 15th level monk has a +20 to this check from land speed, meaning his average roll is nearly 70! (allowing him to jump 67' horizontally, or 17' straight up vertically).

Reducing the impact of a fall: A DC 15 check will allow you to ignore the first 10' of falling damage on a deliberate fall.

 And Tumble: This is an ability to allow you to get past an opponent without taking a free attack.


Which of these have ground for use?

The answer to this question for many of these has a lot to do with what type of game you want to run. If you like superhero games or fantasy characters with superhuman powers, then the balance and jump categories fit right in.

Historically, this is one of the easiest skills to buff, meaning that anyone that decides to focus on this skill can start to achieve really impressive numbers quickly. Is that such a bad thing? Not really for a pathfinder game - little will be broken by the monk being able to jump fifty feet or so at level 10.

Balance: Balance skills are bad game design. They are made as part of another action with the penalty of "you lose your turn". It is not a particularly fun activity to sit around a table and roll to see if you get a turn.
 It is used under a time constraint and you cannot model it at the table, but the result of 'lose your turn' is less a serious consequence and more something crappy that happens and there is no conflict with another entity.

A better solution would be just to apply the "you move at half speed and lose your dexterity bonus to armor class while balancing", with a requirement of needing to not be wearing heavy armor. This keeps the same flavor without requiring tedious rolling and missing your turn.

As much fun as it is for DM's to make players not get to play the game - it is somewhat unfun for the participants.

Jump: A commoner of average dexterity can make a running leap on a flat surface and jump either just 1' or 20'. Though this technically fits within human norms (an average long jump is 12', Olympians can reach double that with intensive training), it is far too much variance. Also, this type of activity requires years of special focused training to reach a distance of 24' - a distance possible for your first level rogue.

I do believe that these types of leaps are very much the type of supernatural ability that monks should exhibit, so I think total elimination of jumping is a bad idea. This is an example of a skills where the variance on the d20 roll is much too high to model any sort of jumping consistency. The original 3e check was much more realistic but more complicated (Distance was 5 ft. + 1 ft. per 1 point above 10.) If you were to perform a series of long jumps, they would all be within a few feet of one another.

I have a hard time not simply allowing players in light armor to make any jump less than 15' or so even if they have to catch the other side and pull themselves up. I would simply allow monks to jump much farther. In a combat situation I'd set a default range and anything at that range to 5' farther I'd require some sort of pass/fail dexterity check. This solution is perferable to me, because I don't want level 9 characters able to jump 30'+.

The biggest issue with the jump skill is the 'time constraints'.


In nearly every non-time constrained situation there is another way around the situation making this skill useless.

Jumping does hit two of the points, damage is a serious consequence, and it can't be modeled at the table. This is the only check with a partial result for a success. Which means that interesting situations can occur at the table, but frequently don't.

Reducing the impact of a fall: This is another thing that seems like a class feature; it doesn't increase with distance or level. Making this a class feature of the rogue or monk seems the simplest route.

Tumbling past an opponent: Here is where there is some ground for a skill. This has time constraints, puts you in conflict with another entity, has a serious consequence for failure, and can't be modeled at the table. It is also something that comes up quite a bit in play.

Pathfinder has a really excellent innovation for this, the combat maneuver check. The key part of this is the maneuver defense. In older games allowing a normal melee attack at this combat maneuver defense to avoid getting hit seems like a good solution. Anyone who wishes to focus in these techniques could use their level instead of their attack bonus (thieves, et. al.)


Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

That's really the question I'm addressing here - how often does it come up, how important is it to what is going on at the table, how big a difference does it make to the actual enjoyment of the players.

The only part of it that comes up every session with any regularity is the tumbling part. If you're buying into the rest of the d20 skills system, then tacking acrobatics on isn't a complete waste of time, but the skill is not necessary for adjudication of these situations.

What do we lose?

Acrobatics is one of the worst offenders at skill hiccuping. These rolls often have little drama and they are called for far too often. Often it is best to avoid using the skill at all due to the high variance of the results. The consequences are a hideous trifecta of not very severe, uninteresting and unfun.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
  • Balance on any reasonable surface (1"+) in light armor, move at half speed and get no dexterity bonus to armor
  • Jump auto success on jumps less than 15', dexterity check to succeed at jumps between 15' and 20'
  • Monks and Rogues can reduce falling damage
  • Use an attack check versus hit dice + 10* to avoid an attack when doing something that will cause you to be hit. Allow training to have the attack check be equal to level instead. *(either BAB+strength bonus to hit vs. HD+10, or melee ThAC0 vs AC 10-HD, feel free to modify by size or circumstance)

On Alchemical Items: Dust of the Burning Wounds

Some previews of the many many items coming in the forthcoming Alchemy & Poisons supplement. Rules are here.

Dust of Burning Wounds
BSC:30%(R)gp:50 gp
DC:22TTC:1 day
CC:6CGP::20 gp
NWP:-3XP:25 xp
D100:+5%Weight:- / 10
D6:2 in 6 / 5Difficulty:Hard
RarityRare

Materials: Rare Earths (5 drams), Salt (4 drams), Powdered Silver (1 dram), Powdered Gold (1 dram), Powdered Platnium (1 dram), Barbed Devil Barbs/Pain Essence (2 drams)

Description: This dust is designed to cause terrible pain to those with open wounds. When struck by this dust, if the target has been damaged the dust sticks to the wound and begins causing a festering terrible pain. A saving throw versus paralyzation is made (Reflex save DC 18). If successful the target takes 1d6 damage. If the saving throw is failed the target takes 2d6 damage as the dust eats into the wound causing it to flare open and an additional 1d3 damage every succeeding round until the wound is bound or healing is recieved.
If the target is suffering from a bleeding effect or has lost over half their hit points, the saving throw is at -4 (Reflex save DC 22).
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