Friday, December 18, 2009

Pathfinder RPG: Chapter 4: Skills: Part 6

Here at long last is the final part of my six part blog on the Pathfinder RPG skills chapter. This post has been weeks in the making and I'm actually still not done with reorganizing the skills, but I now have enough information to convey my strategy, so I hope it's appreciated.

The skills chapter has taken me in some unexpected directions and I still hold to the claim that not only are there holes in the system, that is unanswered questions in the rules, but that the skill system is also poorly organized for reference during play. So what I've done is gone to a great deal of effort to identify the holes, patch them and reorganize the skills system into a fast play referential form. I've done this because I really abhor having to scan large bodies of text or rely on memory to fill in details during play. The usual advice is to just make it up and move on but then why have a system at all? Besides, players are sometimes very dissatisfied when they miss a success by even a single forgotten variable. So, I've come up with the following new skill format:

Mandatory Skill Properties

Below are are the bare minimum properties for a skill to be functional.
  1. DC Base: what is the base difficulty class for the skill?
  2. Check Frequency: how often do I have to make a skill check?
  3. Success: what happens on a single tier of success?
  4. Failure: what happens on a single tier of failure?
Optional Skill Properties
  1. Restriction: what restrictions apply to this skill? this comes first so you can stop here when you don't meet the restriction
  2. Definition: defines a term unique to the description of the skill
  3. DC Modifier: what are the DC modifiers for this skill
  4. Dice Modifier: what are the dice roll modifiers for this skill?
  5. Time: how long does the skill take to use?
  6. Distance: what is the distance covered while using the skill (in the case of a movement-related skill)?
  7. Speed: what speed options are available (in the case of a movement-related skill)?
Final Notes
  1. Bonus In: lists a single static/permanent bonus that always increases your chances of success in this skill
  2. Bonus Out: lists a single static/permanent bonus that this skill gives to another skill or ability
  3. Other Notes: miscellaneous notes
  4. D20: list of prior skills in case you need to go back to the prior D20 rules for clarification
This format may not be a sufficient replacement for the actual skill description, but it sure beats having to scan long columns of text for details. I'm thinking I'll develop a GM screen dedicated to the skill system alone.

Here's an example of what I have in mind. I've chosen the Climb skill as an example. Read the skill description for climb from the SRD: here.

Okay now read my skill format applied to the climb skill:

(~ means that this is implied by the rules but isn't explicitly stated)
(? means that there's an outstanding issue with this item; an unanswered question)
(! means that there's a critical outstanding issue with this item; a show stopper)

  • Restriction: you cannot use a shield when climbing
  • Restriction: you must use both hands when climbing
  • Restriction: you cannot climb a perfectly smooth, flat vertical surface
  • Restriction: creatures cannot use the run action during climbing movement
  • Restriction: creatures can move to avoid a blow (keep dexterity bonus); not flat-footed (?)
  • Definition: wall >= 60 degrees
  • Definition: slope < 60 degrees
  • DC Base: 0 (slope and rope; wall and knotted rope)
  • DC Base: 5 (wall and rope; hanging knotted rope; rope trick spell)
  • DC Base: 10 (rough ledged wall; ship's rigging)
  • DC Base: 15 (natural rock surface with plentiful handholds; tree; hanging unknotted rope)
  • DC Base: 15 (using hand holds, pitons or tools to cut hand holds per 5 feet)
  • DC Base: 20 (dungeon wall; uneven surface)
  • DC Base: 25 (brick wall; natural rock surface with narrow handholds)
  • DC Base: 30 (overhang with handholds only)
  • DC Modifier: -10 (chimney; opposing walls to brace on)
  • DC Modifier: -5 (climbing a corner)
  • DC Modifier: +5 (slippery surface)
  • DC Modifier: +8 if creature has climb speed; can also take 10 on any wall even if rushed or threatened
  • Dice Modifier: -5 when moving at half speed
  • Dice Modifier: -5 when creature with climb speed moves at double-climb speed
  • Check Frequency: 1 per round or each move action (~)
  • Check Frequency: when taking damage using same DC
  • Check Frequency: when the DC <= 0 no check for creatures with climb speed
  • Success: apply movement (~)
  • Failure: <= 4 no progress
  • Failure: >=5 you fall from current height, take damage and land prone (!)
  • Failure: when taking damage and failing a check you fall from current height, take damage and land prone (!)
  • Condition: cannot move to avoid a blow (no dexterity bonus); flat-footed (?)
  • Time: per movement
  • Time: 1 minute to create a hand hold using pitons or handaxe
  • Distance: per movement (~)
  • Speeds: quarter, half; creatures can move double-climb speed or land speed whichever is less
Catch Yourself
  • DC Base: 20 + wall DC
  • DC Base: 10 + slope DC
  • Success: you stop your fall (~)
  • Failure: you fall from your current height, take damage and land prone (~)
  • Time: free action (~)
Catch an Ally
  • Restriction: ally must be above or adjacent to you and within reach
  • Restriction: your ally's total weight cannot exceed your heavy load limit
  • DC Base: initial attempt; melee touch attack (target can opt to forgo his Dex bonus)
  • DC Base: when you "hit" make a 10 + wall/slope DC check on a successful catch
  • Success: catcher must make immediate Climb check to avoid falling himself
  • Failure: <= 4 you fail to stop the fall but maintain your own grip
  • Failure: >=5 you fall from current height too, take damage and land prone
  • Time: free action (~)
Rope Use
  • Restriction: you can raise or lower double your maximum load only
Final Notes
  • Bonus In: +2 Athletic (feat)
  • Bonus In: +4 Athletic (feat) + Climb (10 ranks)
  • D20: Climb + Rope Use
Which one might seem clearer for reference during play? Keep in mind that these are my raw notes from which I'll later produce a GM screen.

Outstanding Issues
  • Why doesn't the skill system just say you're flat footed instead of "creatures can't move to avoid a blow (keep dexterity bonus)?"
  • The complete results of a failure aren't explicitly stated in the rules, for example if you fall do you land prone? If you take damage during a climb you have to make another check. What are the failure results for this type of check?
  • The rules say that catching an ally takes "no action." Why not say it's a free action so that it fits into the combat framework?


John Reyst said...

Don't forget my offer to start adding your cleaned up versions to the site. I'd love to see your much cleaner format in a text box on each skill page. It would make the next time I GM or play that much easier.

AWizardInDallas said...

Oh, no worries I plan to do just that! I'm still on my third or forth painstaking walk through the text, but have about half the skills completed.

I plan to be done by 1/1 too because I'll be launching a new game on New Years Eve! Yay!