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Skills and backgrounds

Crusaders Solo Handbook Compatible with Castles & Crusades

At the beginning of the year, I was playing Castles & Crusades with my paladin called Hanson. He met a sad end, being eaten by a polar bear on an arctic ice flow, but we are not all destined to reach a high level. C&C uses what it calls the Siege Engine for resolving skill tests. You describe narratively what you want to do, and then roll over a target number on a d20 + your level. The target number differs depending on the difficulty and whether or not the more appropriate characteristic is one of your prime characteristics or not. You set your primes depending on preference and class.

Solo Roleplaying 13th Age

In August I was playing 13th Age and they use a similar idea but you get 8 points to spend on describing your pre adventuring background. Each point gives you a +1 to rolls for any skill that someone with that background would know. I was playing a cleric that knew about monastic life including the farming and horticultural aspects so could apply a total of +4 to any skill rolls relating to those subjects.

This month I am playing The Lore System. This game uses Lore Sheets. These are first-person descriptions of your background and come with a bundle of related skills. Furthermore, if a skill would have been natural for that background, such as fire starting for a woodsman, the skill test is an automatic success when used for finding clues during your adventure. This last bit is the same way that investigative skills work in Gumshoe.

Lore sheets are writing by the player with GM input to anchor the character into the game world.

All three systems try to avoid the massive data dump that a fully-featured skill system has a habit of exploding into. Take Rolemaster for example, that ended up with hundreds of skills, and GURPS is no better.

Hero System, which is a personal favourite, has profession skills that cost virtually nothing, but have very broad scope. Professional Skill:Journalist is all that you need to add to your character sheet. I think that would cost something like 3 points from a budget of about 150. It is both something and nothing. It makes your character a competent at their chosen profession, but costs next to nothing as a penalty for developing this non-adventuring/crime fighting skill.

I am not sure which system I like the most. Right now, I think I would probably choose the Lore sheets approach. It is very rules light, very elegant and nicely thematic.

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2 thoughts on “Skills and backgrounds

  1. I like the way that Barbarians of Lemuria (and its genre-neutral descendant Everywhen) does it. You put points into various backgrounds or careers and that determines your bonus on rolls for things that would fall in that career. If you have 1 point in say, thief, then you get +1 on your rolls for picking locks. You can have careers at 0 points as well, since there are things that you could not even attempt without career knowledge. Things like flying a 747 or performing an appendectomy would fall into that bucket. This makes some careers more obviously useful than others, but that’s where narrative creativity comes into play. Maybe those years you spent as a Spartan slave taught you a thing or two about perseverance, so the GM allows you a bonus to your roll to resist starvation…

    1. That is very similar to the 13th Age system. You get 8 points to split between careers, no more that 4 point in any one of them.

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