Friday, April 06, 2012

A Swing and a Miss?

Looks like it to me:

Our current plan is to condense skill and feat choices into two choices: background and theme. Background tells you where you came from, who you were, and what you are trained to do. Your background gives you a set of skills, specific tasks, areas of knowledge, or assets a character of that background ought to have. The thief background gives you Pick Pockets, Stealth, Streetwise, and Thieves’ Cant. The soldier background gives you Endurance, Intimidate, Survival, and an extra language. We want your abilities to carry the weight of basic task resolution, so these skills improve your chances when you perform tasks related to them or just let you do something, such as cook a meal, speak Goblin, or run for twice as long as the next person.

Where background speaks to the skills you possess, your theme describes how you do the things you do. All fighters, for example, kick ass in combat because they are fighters. A sharpshooter fighter is awesome with ranged weapons while a slayer fighter dominates in hand-to-hand combat. Your theme helps you realize a certain style, technique, or flavor through the feats it offers. Each theme gives you several feats, starting with the first one right out of the gate. As you gain levels, your theme gives you additional feats that reflect the theme’s overall character.

There's a lot of maybe here for me. Maybe this will work if skills and feats don't have prerequisites. If they do, then I'm still going to have to build out my character to level 10 or whatever to make sure I pick up the right ones. And maybe it'll work if everyone doesn't decide your fighter must have a certain feat and skill package to be "viable" in the game. If that happens, your attempt to tie background to mechanics has backfired, and now everyone is playing the same background over and over again.

It also depends on how skills and feats are used in the game. Are they additive or subtractive? By this I mean, do the skills work as they do in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG, where everyone has a 1-in-6 chance of finding a trap, but the Specialist can improve his odds? Or can nobody swim unless they have the swimming skill (which, as 3e taught us, means that nobody can swim because, seriously, how often does that come up). They've made noises in the past that indicate that it's more the LotFP style, with everyone at least getting a roll based on the appropriate stat, which is promising.


Zak Sabbath said...

_Pay less attention to the columns_

Black Vulmea said...


That's what Pundit keeps saying - good to hear it echoed.

James Maliszewski said...

If the columns mean little, what purpose do they serve? I'd have thought, after the fiasco that was 4e's marketing, WotC would be more circumspect about having stuff put out there that doesn't really reflect the design of the new edition.

LokiSooner said...

Isn't this just the Kits system from 2E all over again?

Cross Planes said...

I'm echoing Zak S, as well. I wish I could elaborate. And James, I wish I had the answer to that question.

Hedgehobbit said...

Interesting to me because this is how I've been running B/X for a few years now. Characters have a "theme", for example, a Fighter can be a barbarian, knight, swashbuckler, etc and gains skill check bonuses for things that correspond to his theme.

I don't have a set skill list nor a limit on what a player can pick as his theme. All of that is DM adjudicated.

trollsmyth said...

Hedgehobbit: Yeah, that's very much how I've done things since junior high. Actually, it was a teensy bit more detailed than that: the players would pick their pre-adventuring profession for their character (something we got from reading the ads for the Warhammer RPG and flipping through the books in the store) and that would dictate skills a character might have that seemed unusual. As it turned out, farmwife was considered one of the best options, since it gave you the ability to gut monsters and turn them into food and materials for pretty much anything you wanted to name. ;)

Scott said...

Condensing skills with backgrounds and feats into themes is one the better decisions I've seen so far. And I love that you could build a character with the background and theme you want, but then miss the prequisites for something cooler later on; maybe that'll teach the min-max'ers to cool it.

trollsmyth said...


And I love that you could build a character with the background and theme you want, but then miss the prequisites for something cooler later on; maybe that'll teach the min-max'ers to cool it.

Not sure I understand that. Wouldn't that make the min-maxers ditch the whole themes-and-backgrounds thing in favor of carefully planning out their feat and skill lists out to level 20?