Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Knacks! There's Always a Chance!

I know I promised some tables for my Amnesia rules in the last post, but unfortunately, it takes me a bit longer to get some good inspiration for long tables. Instead, here's something else I've been thinking about.

Skill lists are a touchy subject in the OSR community I've found. Many people would rather player skill and ingenuity be used in games, and that skill lists discourage this. While I don't completely believe this, I have seen people excited to try to roll a skill, only to look at the modifier and sigh that it's not high enough. Not really intentional discouragement due to skill lists, but rather skill lists encouraging specialization rather than a jack-of-all-trades style to skills. I like skill lists and have always allowed player ingenuity to take the forefront. I would like to encourage anyone to try skills they may or may not have.

I feel Savage Worlds has figured a way around this with their skill system. Everyone rolls what is called the Wild Dice, a d6 that can give you a chance of success, even if you are terrible at a skill. It allows for you to be completely lucky at something, but still doesn't override skill specialization. Now, the Wild Dice is rolled for almost all rolls, and I am unsure if I want a full on luck system for all rolls, or just something for skills. Also it works better in Savage Worlds because they have the exploding dice concept. I've always liked my games to be a bit more survival and gritty, so I want just enough of a system to give a better chance of success without making the game too easy and making skill specialization worthless.

So I think I have something I like conceptually, but I'd have to playtest it with some people. I call them knacks. These would work well in any D&D game that has a skill list, like 3.5/Pathfinder, 5e, etc. If using this for 3.5/Pathfinder, just a note that I've removed the concept of Trained Only skills. Any skill can be used if you aren't trained. This may seem weird for Knowledge skills, but think of it as the PC hearing a random tip or trivia about that piece of information.

Knack
Adventures have inborn talents to do certain things they might not be trained in. At character creation, pick a category, Physical or Mental. This represents your knack. Physical skills are those tied to Strength and Dexterity, while Mental skills are tied to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Whenever you roll a skill that falls under your knack, but you have no skill points in (or aren't proficient as is the case with 5e), then you can add your Knack Die. This is a d4 that you roll with the d20 and adds a bonus to your skill roll equal to the result on the d4.

If you ever put a skill point in a skill you have a knack in (3.5) or become proficient in a skill you have a knack in (5e), then you lose the d4.

Edition Differences

3.5/Pathfinder
If the skill is a class skill, then you don't get the +3 knack bonus when you put a skill point in there. No double dipping here.

Optional Rule: At level 4,8,12, and 16, your Knack die steps up by one (d6, d8, d10, d12).

5e
Instead of getting a knack die for all Mental skills, you have to pick four you aren't proficient in. This is because the Mental skills severely outnumber the Physical skills in 5e.

Edit: For 5e, instead of choosing between Physical and Mental Knacks, simply choose four skills you aren't proficient in as your knacks

If you are rolling an advantage or disadvantage, just roll the Knack die once and apply it to the relevant dice roll.


This system does make characters a little more competent at skills, which I don't mind personally. I think this helps to encourage players to try new skills while still rewarding skill specialization. I'd want to play test this some more, but my big worry is that it may encroach too much on the rogue. But if I made this more of a default house rule, I'd give the rogue the ability to have better knacks. I also wonder how useful this will be in higher levels of Pathfinder, with DCs in the 30s. Though at that point, you've got skill points and feats to spare for your character. That's why I made the optional rule above, but I'd love for more play testing opportunities.