Skills Aplenty

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New General Skills for your D&D campaign

The skills below are used like any other General Skill (RC/81). New and revised general skills are indicated throughout this work with an asterisk (*). The text sometimes mentions an automatic success or an automatic failure; these are a natural roll of 1 or 20, respectively.

This article originally appeared in ODD&ITIES #12 and was co-authored by James Gregoire.

Strength Skills

Coachmanship (choose vehicle type)
Those with this skill are capable of driving any vehicle powered by a mount or team of mounts. Such vehicles include chariots, wagons, drawn carts, and coaches (other, possibly exotic, vehicles may exist at the DM’s discretion; for example, a shallow water skiff pulled by dolphins). No skill roll is required for travel over standard terrain, though skill rolls are necessary to perform any special manoeuvre, negotiate a specific obstacle, drive the mounts to sprint, or control the rig and mounts under adverse conditions (bad weather, amid combat, etc.). Separate skill slots must be allotted to each vehicle learned, though knowledge in Animal Training (RC/83) grants a +1 to all skill rolls if the vehicle is powered by a mount familiar to the character.

Any character who wishes to swim competently needs this skill , which allows swimming movement equal to 1/5 the character’s normal outdoor running speed (convert to feet if swimming underwater). No skill roll is required for surface swimming on calm water. However, Swimming rolls are required once per round whilst submerged or in rough waters. A failed roll means that the character begins to drown; such characters are still alive but below the surface. A submerged character may hold his breath for a number of rounds equal to CON (or 1/2 that amount if exerting himself; RC/90); additional skill rolls may be made each round during this time to see if the character can break the surface. Characters who escape death by drowning are immediately exhausted (RC/88); drowned characters may be revived as per the guidelines on RC/90.

Intelligence Skills

Alchemy (choose a school)
The skill of Alchemy is divided into two schools: herbal and magical. Herbal Alchemy deals only with natural materials, the products of which are usually healing salves, herbal remedies, biological poisons, or corresponding antidotes. Magical Alchemy deals with rare and arcane ingredients, usually used in the fabrication of magical potions. Separate skill slots must be spent to learn the methods of each school. A successful skill roll allows the alchemist to recognise admixtures appropriate to his school. If desired, the character may concoct alchemical brews germane to his discipline, though the DM must determine ingredients and equipment (e.g., a simple healing poultice may require only a few herbs and some water, while a magic potion certainly requires exotic components and a well-equipped laboratory). Herbal Alchemy skills are modified by +1 if the character possesses Nature Lore; Magical Construction (q.v.) similarly affects skill rolls in Magical Alchemy.

Anatomy (choose creature type/species)
Anatomy is the study of a creature’s physiology. The Anatomy skill may be applied to a single creature type (construct, dragon-kin, humanoid, lowlife, normal animal, et al., as listed on RC/155-6) or a single species (goblin, halfling, gold dragon, et al.). If learned as the former, the character has knowledge of the general anatomy of all creatures within the category. If learned as the latter, the character has especial knowledge of the species studied, reflected as a +2 modifier to rolls dealing with that species, but is penalised with a -1 modifier for rolls dealing with any other creatures. A successful skill roll grants knowledge of a creature’s body, biology, and organ systems. As such, this skill may be useful to those investigating organic ingredients for magic item creation; in a more sinister vein, Anatomy is required for the Assassination skill (q.v.).

The skill of making and breaking codes, cryptography is a somewhat esoteric art. Skill rolls are required to devise new codes and to reveal the contents of a coded message; the character must recognise the code’s language before attempting a skill roll. A successful skill roll creates a workable cipher whose difficulty is reflected with a permanent modifier equal to -1 per point of skill roll success. When puzzling out a code, the character’s skill roll is modified by the code’s difficulty. For example, a cryptographer with an INT of 14 creates a new code; the result of his skill roll is 10. The code’s difficulty is -4, and subsequent skill rolls to break that code are modified accordingly. Conversely, a failed skill roll results in a +1 modifier per point of failure. If our cryptographer above failed with a roll of 17, his new code’s difficulty would be +3. A character reading code he previously devised requires no skill roll.

Heraldry (choose culture)
This skill grants recognition of heraldic symbols and devices common to organisations within a specific campaign region (typically a country or kingdom). Recognition of the heraldry in different regions requires separate Heraldry skills. Heraldic symbols may appear on shield crests, badges, signet rings, religious effigies, flag patterns, or clothing styles (helmet plumes, arm bands, etc.) as may be used by noble houses, ruling bodies, prominent families, political groups, religious sects, or troop companies. A successful skill roll allows the character to identify a symbol or device, which person or group the device designates, and any useful titbits associated with the device as determined by the DM. Characters with this skill automatically recognise the prominent devices of their homeland. If the character possesses the Knowledge (local lore) skill appropriate to the region, all Heraldry skill rolls are modified by +1.

Knowledge (campaign lore)
This skill confers knowledge of the prominent legends and lore of the campaign setting-ancient battles, prominent warriors of the past, legendary magical items, old fables and curses, lost treasures, etc. Such lore, being a mixture of historical fact and mythical speculation, is not always absolute truth, and a successful roll indicates only awareness or recognition of something’s relationship to the campaign’s body of lore. For example, the party might discover a rune-scribed spear whilst adventuring. Knowledge of campaign lore would not reveal the exact (if any) powers of the weapon though it could identify the spear as that wielded by a legendary elf warrior who fought in the goblin wars two centuries ago.

Knowledge (local lore)
This skill simulates a character’s familiarity with the history and legends of a specific and familiar locale. At the DM’s option, characters automatically gain Knowledge of local lore surrounding their home village or town. Like any other Knowledge skill, local lore can be used to answer particular questions, and a successful skill roll indicates that the desired information is known. A failed roll simply means that the answer is unattainable without further research. Note that this skill differs from Knowledge (campaign lore; q.v.) in that it is more centralised and specific, often concentrated on more mundane and temporal matters than the campaign’s myths and legends.

Magical Construction
This skill subsumes the principles of using magic in the fabrication or enchantment of any item (including magic items, constructs, fortifications, and magically powered vessels). As such, it is a required skill for those who would construct magic items of any sort. A roll is required for every major stage of item construction (as determined by the DM; RC/250-5); if the roll fails, the construction process is set back one day per point of failure and, during this time, the character must engage in additional research. Of course, normal construction costs are incurred during the delay. Conversely, a successful skill roll reduces construction time for that phase of the project by one day per point of success, to a minimum of 1 day. This skill is not required for spell research (RC/255), and it differs from Magical Engineering (RC/84) in that it provides no ability to recognise the workings of common magic items.

Mechanical Construction
This skill allows characters to build simple or complex machines, and a skill roll is required whenever the character wishes to invent, build, or repair a mechanical device. When inventing such items, a successful skill roll generates a sound set of plans; a successful roll when building the item means that the device works as intended. A successful repair roll obviously fixes a damaged piece of machinery. The DM should determine the viability of any plan or invention as well as what materials and tools (if any) are required. As a rule of thumb (and, since this is a fantasy game), a device will work if its design and operational theory is plausible. In game terms, then, if something looks like it ought to work, it probably can be made to work.

Wisdom Skills

The study of anthropology grants intimate knowledge of a culture’s beliefs, convictions, values, and traditions. Such knowledge includes an understanding of cultural icons, prevailing creation myth, rites of passage, the significance of various ceremonies, proper forms of address, social hierarchies, and community taboos. In short, the character is a veritable expert on the culture studied; skill rolls are required only if the result would be significant to game play.

This skill allows characters to estimate the value and authenticity of nearly any item of worth–works of art, gems, jewellery, perfume, furniture, tapestries, silks, et al. Appraisal rolls should be made by the DM. A successful check grants a figure accurate to within 10% of the item’s value or allows the character to recognise an item as a fake. If the check fails, the item’s value cannot be accurately determined; if the roll is an automatic failure, the item’s value is grossly miscalculated, always to the character’s disadvantage.

This skill allows the character to read the stars and interpret the significance of their positions relative to each other. The DM should make all Astrology rolls. With a successful roll, the character can “”read”” another character (via palm reading, tarot cards, or the subject’s “”sun sign””) and make vague predictions for the near future (one week per point of success). The DM must decide how such predictions or classifications are reflected in the campaign (or, indeed, if the astrological reading has any real merit at all). Possession of the Astrology skill grants a +1 bonus to Navigation skill rolls, provided that the character has a clear view of the sky.

Camping (choose terrain)
Those with this skill are capable, given rudimentary gear, of camping safely and soundly within their chosen environment. Knowledge includes lighting and maintaining a fire , open-flame cooking, erecting and placing shelter, some knot-tying, how to use natural features to aid a campsite’s comfort and defensibility, and general understanding of how to best live while out-of-doors. No skill roll is typically required, unless the outcome would be significant to game play. Those possessing Nature Lore or Survival in the chosen terrain type may add a +1 to all Camping skill rolls; conversely, Camping grants a +1 to all Survival skill rolls in the chosen environment.

Dexterity Skills

This dangerous skill replaces the assassinate ability of the Thug (RC/184). To use this skill, the assassin must possess the Anatomy skill appropriate to the target’s species (not just creature type; q.v., Anatomy). The assassin must also have at least Expert mastery with the murder weapon and be within point blank range (i.e., half of short range for a missile weapon) or melee range (five feet) of the victim. Finally, the target cannot be aware of the assassin’s proximity or be actively defending himself (as in combat, for example). If these conditions are met, a successful Assassinate roll eliminates the victim, regardless of hit points. A failed roll indicates that the assassination attempt was somehow foiled; an automatic failure grants the would-be victim automatic initiative if combat ensues. The Assassinate roll is penalised by the victim’s AC (not including DEX or shield adjustments), but improved by the assassin’s normal “”to-hit”” modifier(s).

Craft (rope-making)
The skill of making rope, twine, or cord from a suitable raw material (cordage fibres, hemp, wool, alpaca, silk, cotton, etc.), or gauge the quality of same. A skill roll is required for either function and should be made by the DM. If the skill roll fails, the rope breaks during the manufacturing process or is recognised as weak; if the skill roll is an automatic failure, the rope appears serviceable but snaps when used during a critical situation.

This skill allows the character to create convincing signatures or passable duplicates of official documents. In order to render a forgery, the character must have seen, studied, or have on hand an original of what’s being forged. The DM should make all Forgery skill rolls. If the roll is successful, the forgery is passable and can be used credibly. If the roll fails, the forgery is questionable and will be detected as such under close scrutiny (the DM needs to define “”close scrutiny,”” though a WIS check by the reader is suggested). If the roll is an automatic failure, the forgery is instantly recognised as a fake, though the forger believes it to be satisfactory. The Forgery skill may also be used to copy unique items, but only if the character has the appropriate general skills to create them in the first place (e.g., a character could create a forged painting if he possessed the Forgery skill and the Art (painting) skill).

Profession (Gem smith/Jeweller)
This skill provides the basic knowledge required of any gem smith or jeweller (while the former cuts and polishes gems and the latter sets gems into jewellery, they are combined into one skill for simplicity). If performing routine work (e.g., gem cleaning, jewellery repair, etc.), no skill roll is required. However, when cutting an uncut stone, the smith must make a skill roll and the DM should consult the Variable Gem Size and Quality Table (RC/226). If the skill roll is successful, the gem moves up one row in quality (e.g., from “”Fairly good”” to “”Good””); if the roll is unsuccessful, the gem’s quality is degraded one class (at the DM’s option, a natural 20 renders the gem’s quality “”Very poor,”” while a natural 1 indicates a gem of “”Very good”” quality). If fashioning a piece of jewellery, the jeweller’s skill roll affects the piece’s value on the Jewellery Value Table (RC/227): each point of success grants a +5%, while each point of failure subtracts 7%. Possession of this skill grants a +1 to all Appraisal (q.v.) rolls for gems and jewellery.

Rope Use
This skill is useful for anyone wielding rope in any capacity. It allows the character to tie and untie knots or perform difficult or trick manoeuvres (e.g., accurately tossing a grappling hook or lassoing a (non-combative) target). Each point of success or failure on a skill roll equates to a +1/-1 modifier to all other rope-related skill checks (i.e., Engineering (when rope is used in construction), Escape, and Snares). The same modifier negatively affects any other attempt to work against the character’s knots. For example, if a character ties a knot in a construction project and fails by three points, any subsequent Engineering roll is made at a -3 penalty; conversely, if a character ties up a prisoner and makes his skill roll by two, the prisoner’s Escape skill roll is modified by -2.

Constitution Skills

Profession (Sailor)
This skill includes all of the basic knowledge required of a crewman aboard a sailing vessel, though it does not include the ability to pilot or navigate a ship, nor does it assume the character’s ability to swim (q.v., Swimming). No skill checks are required unless performing duties under adverse conditions (e.g., bad weather, under attack, whilst sinking, et al.). Successful skill rolls simply mean that the task is performed properly. At the DM’s option, separate skill slots may be required for different vessel categories (cf., Piloting skill, RC/85).

Charisma Skills

This represents a character’s skill in finding (but not necessarily obtaining), hard-to-find items through the use of unnamed contacts, fences, and influence; as implied, this skill is suited to thieves and best used in urban environments where the potential to find all manner of commodities is relatively high (the DM may wish to modify skill rolls based on the size of the population or proximity to avenues of trade and commerce). With a successful skill roll, the character knows who to talk to or where to go in order to find a particular rare or exotic item. Another skill roll allows the character to favourably negotiate an asking price, request specific quantities, schedule a meeting to deliver the goods, or get passed on to superior contact-all while retaining anonymity. Dungeon Masters must strictly enforce the scope of this skill: a successful skill roll does not automatically conjure up the item desired; it simply provides favourable leads toward obtaining that item. Possession of Etiquette or Streetwise (qq.v.) improves use of this skill by +1 when employed in appropriate circles.

Those possessing this skill are knowledgeable in the proper forms of address and social behaviour when amongst those of rank or nobility. A successful skill roll allows the character to interact appropriately with persons above his station, use correct titles, demonstrate social niceties, and adequately participate in appealing conversation. Skill rolls are typically made upon initial introductions; subsequent rolls are made whenever the DM feels it necessary (when discussing, for example, a sensitive subject). Failed rolls indicate that the character has committed some social gaffe or breach of protocol; at best, he will be politely shunned or, at worst, he will be accused of delivering a significant insult.

This skill is similar to Leadership (RC/84) in that it raises the morale of NPC followers and helps convince underlings to follow the PC’s orders. However, it’s based on intimidation and threats, so NPCs affected co-operate out of fear. In most cases, it is used by chaotic leaders to direct troops in battle, but may also be used to Intimidate individual NPCs of greater than 5th-level (RC/84). If used to lead troops, up to 10 individuals per character level may be galvanised, and their morale is increased by +1 per four levels of the character.

This skill allows the character to extract rumours from conversation by piecing together seemingly disparate bits of knowledge overheard from those around him. When used passively, the character gleans one rumour for each point of skill roll success while within earshot of or amid general conversation (e.g., a tavern, marketplace, courthouse, etc.). If used actively, the character may use the skill by keeping an ear open for rumours about a particular topic, individual, date, circumstance, event, or location. Active use skill rolls are negatively modified by the specificity of the information desired (DM discretion). Note that this skill does nothing to gauge the veracity of a given rumour, and it is up to the character to use other means to determine which rumours are true and which are false. Possession of Etiquette or Streetwise (qq.v.) improves use of this skill by +1 when employed in appropriate circles.

Knowledge of this skill allows a character to carouse with and gather information from elements of the campaign’s underworld (street toughs, urchins, beggars, and other seedy types). A successful skill roll indicates favourable reactions from such persons, the correct use of “”street”” terminology and slang, and recognition of underworld protocol. Skill rolls are typically made upon initial introductions to a particular figure; subsequent rolls are made whenever the DM feels it necessary (when the character’s trustworthiness, for example, comes in to question). Failed rolls signify, at best, that the character is not accepted or trusted or, at worst, that the character will be set up by some sleazy contact with whom he is engaged.

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Erin Smale

Erin Smale is the author of the Chimera RPG and, a sporadic, rambling blog that provides tips and tools for the time-challenged game master. He lives in secret along the New Jersey coast with his ass-kicking wife Kim and astoundingly cute dog Bella.

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