In case the two people who read this have been wondering, I’ve been popping in and out of town a lot lately on business, which has cut into my posting rather dramatically. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to change anytime soon, so I will have to adapt.
(Actually, Statcounter tells me that I have significantly more than two regular readers.)
Anyway, I was up in McHenry County, Illinois last week, and I was thinking about how skill systems tend to work in rpgs. One thing that I find odd is that, in real life, one of the benefits of becoming more practiced in a skill is that you become more consistent. In rpgs, the variability of outcome often either stays the same (d20) or increases (Storyteller). There are some exceptions, like Savage Worlds, but these exceptions often have some other issues… such as discarding the possibility of highly skilled individuals accomplishing feats that are impossible for the less skilled.
I think both of these are important. As one increases in skill, one should become (1) more consistent and (2) able to accomplish more impressive feats.
How to model this?
Here’s one way. Let’s say we have a system that uses d6s. Skills have three levels: Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master (or Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert… or whatever). Each level has a numerical rank. In order to have a rank in Journeyman or Master level, you need a minimum rank (say, 3) in the level below it.
For each level, you roll a number of dice equal to your rank and take the highest roll, then you add the results of each level together. So, for an Apprentice you get a result of 1-6, a Journeyman 2-12, and a Master 3-18. Alternately, you can choose not to roll at all and simply take your rank in the level as your result. For example, if you are a Master (2) with 3 ranks in both Apprentice and Journeyman, you can automatically get a result of 8 without rolling.
Also, you can move ranks down. The above individual could roll Apprentice (3) Journeyman (4) and Master (1) if she wanted to – the reason why she might isn’t apparent yet. I’ll explain that in a minute.
Easy enough so far?
Modifiers can work well in this system. It allows you to impose modifiers that have a more significant effect on less skilled. Each modifier would have a single level and rank – which in the case of a penalty would be negative. The ranks are added to/subtracted from the appropriate levels of the skill. This can result in a negative number.
If there’s a negative number, then that level’s die is subtracted rather than added. This is why you might want to sacrifice a higher level rank for a lower level one – to remove penalties.
This is still a work in progress, obviously. I’m using this space primarily as a brain dump at the moment.