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D&D Skillz
Skills (or lack thereof) are one of the big things that made me very curious about running basic D&D again. I talked about it in this post, but I'll re-post the pertinent bit, if you'll forgive self-quoting:

So the obvious bonus from these are further character customization. Players can define their characters more concretely by picking skills or talents as they advance, and sometimes right during character creation. On the other hand, the interesting thing about Moldvay D&D is that because these things are aren't iterated, you can really do anything.

Can a Moldvay D&D character drive a cart? Swim? Disguise himself? Sure. Some of these things (especially things like hiding and searching) do have specific mechanics general to all characters. Others, well, it's just up to the GM to adjudicate on the fly.


So I had some trouble in my basic game with the one form of skills spelled out: thief skills. Partly this was because the thief player just couldn't seem to roll below 30% to save himself. Partly this was because he was trying to use skills that weren't his particular strong point: open lock and remove trap are both in the 25-30 range, while if he instead were the door listener he'd have been at about 50% (1-3 on a d6) instead of letting the fighter do it at 16% (1 on a d6).

The real thing that bothered me about it though was the total reliance on a mechanic. There was an orc layer with three entrances. The orcs had trapped two of the entrances (the ones they don't use) by propping up little platforms above the door loaded with rocks. Opening the door drops the rocks on the head of the person opening the door.

Well as soon as I mentioned there was a rock trap on the door, the thief jumped up and said 'I'll take care of it!' and rolled his remove traps skill. And why shouldn't he, this is his time to shine right? He's actually got something written on his character sheet about this particular situation, and honestly there's precious little on the sheet.

OK, so he rolls, and he fails. I decide that this means he's accidentally tipped the platform while trying to manipulate it, spilling the rocks onto himself (essentially triggering the trap). Bummer. Plus, he does this to both doors, and the second one is enough damage to kill him.

Fact is, if he had asked for more detail about the trap and thought about it, he probably would have asked if he could just remove the rocks one by one. Sure, why not? I would have ruled it as immediate success, though probably consuming a full turn to remove all the rocks. And, the thief needn't be the only one doing it, anyone could pitch in.

But at that point, why be a thief? His ability to find traps is the same as the others (in fact worse than the dwarf), and anyone could figure out using common logic how to remove the trap.

The other case where his skills were un-useful was in opening the locked doors. He just couldn't get an open lock skill to succeed. Then the fighter would jam a spike into the lock, hammer it in, and then use it as a lever to open the door. It worked every time. 'Who needs a thief?!' he shouted gleefully.

Actually, I was just rolling the standard force open door roll behind the screen, and somehow his luck was the exact inverse of the thief's. That stupid d6 came up a 1 every time he tried that trick.

I suppose there is an advantage to the thief. In the case of removing the traps, it's probably quicker if he could rig the platform to just not tip over than slowly remove all the rocks. For opening the doors, they might just surprise the folks on the other side if they picked the lock rather than break down the door.

Something just rubs me the wrong way though when the player is excited to shout 'I apply rule X!' instead of actually interacting with the world. I think it's the first step of the board-game-ization of D&D. Soon we're all just rolling dice and nobody cares how much effort I put into creating any details of the world. I might as well just randomly roll 'Trap Type X with d4 Power Points' than come up with something clever and interesting.

I don't know, maybe it really is just due to some odd luck of the dice. Maybe I need another data point before giving up on the class.
April 27th, 2009 - 08:47 am | Comments (2) | PERMALINK

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