Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Game Mechanics - Changing How Class Skills Are Allocated

I usually use the d20 system for my role-playing gaming. I sometimes dip into GURPS, and I have a couple editions of Traveller, and earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but once the 3rd edition rule set for  Dungeons & Dragons was released, that became my go to game of choice. Although I like the system, I am a rules tinkerer by nature, and I can't just leave it alone if I think something else will work even just a slight bit better. So I began tinkering with the d20 skill system.

House Rule: Skills by Character
Instead of the standard d20 trope of having a character's range of available skills be determined by a list taken from their character class, the "class skills" for a character are determined by the player, at character creation and remain fixed for that character through their adventuring career. Instead of looking at the class skill list for, say, the fighter class when taking a level of fighter, the character will look to their own individually defined array of "class skills" no matter what class they choose to level up in. The number of skill points a character has to spend at any particular level is still determined by their class: the fact that a rogue gets 8 skill points per level while a fighter or a cleric only gets 2 skill points per level is a balancing factor that preserves the parity of the various classes.

If we treat the Craft, Knowledge, Perform, and Profession skills as a single skill, there are thirty-six discrete skills in the d20 system (at least there are thirty-six discrete skills in the 3.5e Player's Handbook). The most diverse class skill list in the standard D&D rule set is the rogue, with twenty-five listed skills, which includes the skills Craft, Perform, and Profession, which are really a number of skills masquerading as one skill. The shortest skill list is the fighter's, with seven skills, although once again one of them is the multifaceted skill Craft. So these would be the parameters for determining how many skills a character should be allowed to select as "class skills".

Craft, Knowledge, Perform, and Profession raise an interesting question when considering how to construct class skill lists. Each of these skills is actually a collection of related skills - Craft: Armorsmith and Craft: Weaponsmith are different skills, but a class that has the skill "Craft" with no further specification would be able to select either of them as class skills. Some classes, such as the rogue and fighter, list these skills in their generic form. A rogue could expend skill points on any Perform subskill and treat them all as class skills. Some classes, such as the monk, which has Knowledge: Arcana and Knowledge: Religion on its class skill list, list specific subskills as class skills. While a monk could spend skill points on those skills at the reduced class skill cost, if he wanted ranks in another Knowledge skill, such as Knowledge: Nobility and Royalty, he would need to purchase those ranks at the double cost for out of class skills. In general, most classes that have specific skills drawn from these general skills, they have one or two, and once in a great while three specified skills. Based upon this observation, it seems reasonable to set the cost of individual subskills in these four generic skills at one skill slot, while choosing to purchase the general skill (i.e. Craft: Any or Profession: Any) costs four skill slots.

Using this revised cost, the rogue would have thirty-one total skill slots, and the fighter would have nine. Setting the total range of class skills available for characters at the midpoint between these two points would give a figure of twenty skills. Using this system, that would mean that during character creation, every starting character would designate twenty skills as "class skills", and that list would remain the same throughout their character's adventuring career no matter what classes they chose to take levels in.

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