Thursday, April 30, 2020

Ultra-Bastard D&D: Skills

Skills in Ultra-Bastard are open-ended. This whole sub-system is optional.
  • There is not a pre-defined skill list.
  • Skills range between +1 and +10.
  • When you make an ability check and have a relevant skill you can add that skill value to your roll. 
  • The more specific a skill, the easier associated checks. 
  • If you have more than one skill that could apply, use the one with the better bonus (bonuses do not stack).
  • Some actions cannot be attempted unless you have a relevant skill.
  • If an action would be routine for someone with a skill, the DM can judge it to be automatically successful.
  • When a player asks for information about a topic, the DM might ask if they have a relevant skill and tailor the response accordingly.
  • Starting skills are determined by your class. 
  • New skills can be learned and existing skills can be improved during character advancement. 
  • The DM will need to make a lot of ad-hoc rulings. This is fine. 

The DM should offer players guidance on whether skills are likely to be useful in the campaign. I.e. if the game will focus primarily on dungeon exploration, woodsmanship might not be helpful.

Skills should be things that have a material, mechanical effect on the adventure. You don't need to assign skill points to playing guitar or being a good cook. Hobbies are free.

A few illustrative examples:
  • A general skill like burglary might apply to sneaking past guards, climbing onto a roof or picking a lock
  • A specific skill like lock-picking may only be useful for only one thing, but checks that would be difficult with a general skill (like burglary) will be easy or automatically successful. 
  • You can't attempt to pick a lock unless you have a relevant skill. E.g. burglary, lock-picking, mechanical tinkering etc. 
Skill Examples: Burglary, demolition, woodsmanship, history, medicine, negotiation, deception, seduction, climbing, bureaucracy, trap setting, lock-picking, pick-pocketing, gothic church lore, trap-setting, forgery, tracking, tinkering, disguise, herbalism, hunting. 

Design Note: This skill system requires communication between the DM and players on the front end to identify skills that will be applicable and fun in a given game. I recommend giving players a non-restrictive list of recommended skills at the start of a campaign. 

Look at your players skill selection as a signal of what they'd like to see in the game. If they pick skills that clash with the game tone or aesthetic or won't appear in the game, take the opportunity to address it up front. Either add their desired elements or warn them and let them pick something else.

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