Monday, February 28, 2011

For Your Consideration: Simple Skills Option for Castles & Crusades

The rules in this post are cribbed from StarSIEGE, and as such are not considered Open Content. I'm sure Troll Lord Games would probably prefer I not do this, and if they would rather I will take this post down.

For me, a major flaw with Castles & Crusades is the lack of a skill system. Ironically, this wasn't an issue for me with D&D or AD&D back in the day, at least until I got the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia and they included Weapon Proficiencies and skills. I don't know if I necessarily want that level of detail, but I know I want more than just the SIEGE Engine to handle skills. The abstraction is a bit too much for what I'm looking for currently. Yes, I've been told by fans that it is bad of me to want this, after mentioning it at places like RPGnet. I rarely let something being bad for me stop me.

I do have to say that I'm not a big fan of StarSIEGE. I found it's implementation of the rules to be disappointing and, in places, not overly well thought out. Of course I would say the same about the first things that I designed as well. I think that StarSIEGE would have greatly benefited from sticking closer to the C&C model and keeping it's class and level strengths rather than the overly convoluted (particularly for something shooting to be 'rules light') mess of a game that we ended up with.

One thing that I didn't convert was the Combat skill bundle. I felt that would unbalance the class abilities given to the fighting classes. This is also a rough draft of a work in progress. It definitely needs some actual play to work it out.

Skill Bundles determine a wide area of character training and knowledge. A character’s Profession establishes the Skill Bundles available to be chosen. Any activity that falls under the purview of a character’s Skill Bundle is considered a Prime. This means that the character is most skilled in the dealings of their Skill Bundles than in any other area. Characters can always
attempt actions that fall outside of their Skill Bundles, but those tasks are done with quite a bit more risk and chance of failure. Any activities outside of the character’s Skill Bundles are considered to be Non-Primes. Castles and Crusades characters receive 2 skill bundles at 1st level and can pick a third at 5th and a fourth at 9th.

Some characters may develop or start with Skill Bans that prevent the character from using certain Skill Bundles. In these cases, the character is unable to ever perform actions that fall under the prohibited Skill Bundle.

The Athletics Skill Bundle covers physical excellence and training. A character trained in Athletics is well-adept at all forms of physical prowess. Athletics aids the character in all attempts to perform feats of strength, agility, or endurance.

Examples of Athletic Checks: Climbing a cliff, balancing on a rope, or leaping to a rooftop.

Awareness covers the character’s overall perceptions of the world around them. A character adept at Awareness knows the best places to use for cover or where to best lie in ambush. Awareness also aids the character in the arts of stealth and sneaking as well as tracking.

Examples of Awareness Checks: Noticing a concealed weapon, sneaking past a guard,
or shadowing someone through a crowd.

The realm of Nature is a vast and varied thing. It encompasses the knowledge of animals, surviving the elements, as well as understanding the natural balance in the whole world. Characters skilled in the arts of Nature can exist in harmony with natural surroundings.

Examples of Environmental Checks:
Identifying an animal by its tracks, surviving for a week in a desert, or camouflaging oneself in the woods to avoid detection.

The Handling Skill Bundle covers the operation of all forms of transportation, from the simplest animal driven cart to large sea-faring vessels. Characters versed in Handling find themselves at home behind the controls; able to perform grant stunts and maneuvers.

Examples of Handling Checks: Riding a horse, driving a horse-drawn transport, piloting a boat, or navigating a ship.

It is often said that knowledge is power. Characters who are adept at the Lore ability can often attest to that statement. Lore grants the character a wide range of knowledge and understanding. Lore covers the bulk of scientific, medical, anthropological, or even trivial knowledge, to name a few. A person skilled at Lore is well-versed in the combined knowledge of the universe and is a veritable fount of information. For a more grainy approach, the CK may determine that each specific field is a separate Lore Skill Bundle. If that's the case, give 1st level characters 3 starting skill bundles instead of 2 to make up for this.

Examples of Lore Checks: Using medicine to heal an injured comrade, recalling a bit of
forgotten history of an area, figuring out a monster met in a dungeon, or translating an ancient text.

The Mechanics ability covers the realm of the creation, understanding, and maintenance of all kinds of objects. Mechanics subsumes the realms of tools, mechanical devices, or crafting of any kind of object. Characters skilled in the arts of Mechanics find themselves in high demand, being able to repair and build all sorts of contraptions that others would leave abandoned for parts.

Examples of Mechanics Checks: Repairing a damaged vehicle, building a small hut out of available materials, or designing a new type of weapon.

A character skilled at the arts of Persuasion is a formidable force. Persuasion gives the character the ability to lead others, to change their minds, or even to bluff their way through sticky situations. Persuasion differs from the Spiritual Skill set in that it deals with forceful changes to others while the Spiritual realm comes to agreements through understanding. They can be used to similar effects, but the intent (and often times outcomes) are very different.
Examples of Persuasion Checks: Smooth talking a person to let you in where you don't belong, convincing a group to follow your lead, or performing a very influential speech to change the votes of key members of a parliament.

The Spirit is a very vast realm, dealing with matters of faith, devotion, and connection to the universe as a whole. The Spiritual Skill Bundle also covers the character’s overall understanding and compassion for others. It can be used in situations to bring calm,encouragement, and even peace. It differs from Persuasion in that it is used to sway the emotions rather than the logic of others.
Examples of Spiritual Checks: Talking down a greatly agitated friend from a rash action, rallying routed troops through appeals to their honor, or inciting a mob to riot.

To check out more about Castles & Crusades, check out the Troll Lord Games website. They've put together an interesting game. You can also find their products on PDF here at RPGNow. I suggest starting with the Players Handbook and Monsters and Treasure. If enough people click through and buy with my affiliate code I may get enough credit to but the Keeper's Guide or Gods and Monsters PDFs.