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Thursday, September 5, 2013

MIDlands Skills 2: Skills versus Non Weapon Proficiencies

In a comment to a previous post (See here: http://midlandstales.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-better-way-to-do-skill-checks.html ) , Neal commented that I panned the Runequest and later editions of D&D for their use of skills, and yet, I make the extensive use of skills myself and even boast of having 375-400 skills in my system.

One thing to consider is that the player never gets to see/choose fro the entire skill list. All of the skills are broken down into skillsets, list of skills available based on the cultural and biographical details of the character. For instance, if your character was born into a particular nobility (Whether Kraitlander, Leonian or Midlander), you have a choice of cultural skills based on ethnicity. If your character grew up on the street corner or in the wilderness, or as a peasant farming, or as a Volgan fisherman (again a setting specific ethnicity), you have a choice or none or one or more skills available to that group (such as fishing and swimming and rafting and riverine survival) basic, common sense skills. If your player character becomes a plain old Fighter, s/he has access to a skill set not available to any other character class, etc.

As to the number of skills, At the beginning each player character gets a certain number of weapon proficiencies (1 to 4 for fighters) and non-weapon proficiencies (NWP). There is a number of non-weapon proficiencies and the NWP advancement rate given in the Oriental Adventure, Dungeoneer Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. In Addition, each player gets a number of NWP's equal to the starting number of weapon proficiencies subtracted from 8. This reflects the truth, that physical training and martial arts takes time away from other skills. In addition, players get to start with the bonus NWP's equal to the number of languages given in the INT table. The NWP offered by the 1st edition AD&D books can only be applied to the skill set particular to the character class. There are rogue, street, and outlaw living set for the Thieves, Priestly and Monastic Living skill sets for Clerics,  etc. While this might seem like a lot, it is not. Fighter starts with 4 weapons (s/he can also use them for the fighters-only skillset, which consists of the variety of medieval battlefield, combat, and tactical skills and is the largest skill set at 35 skills; 2 NWP (FGHTR Only!); and 4 bonus starting skill + between 1 and 7 skills based on the fighter's INT ( between 1 and 3 if his INT is in the average range of 9-12), so, a first level fighter will have between 6 and 13 skills (if we have an INT 18 fighter, have you seen any?) with the average range of between 7 and 9. A Magic User, by comparison, will have 1 weapon and 3 NWP (M-U) Only! plus 7 starting skills and between 3 and 7 bonus skills, so, a 1st level Magic User gets between 13 and 17 starting skills, HOWEVER: a Magic user will need to spend 7 points to function as a basic D&D Magic User casting spells from a single school of magic. Additional school of magic will take up additional skills. The basic skills are (1) Literacy; (2) Alchemy, skill covering the material components; (3) Declamation; (verbal spell component); (4) Spellcasting (somatic spell component); (5) School of Magic Knowledge; (6) Read Magic; (7) Transcribe Magic (being able to use the Magicians short hand to transcribe the magical knowledge that produces a spell effect into one's own spell book).

So, in actuality, a Magic User gets between 6 and 9 "elective" skills to really choose from. Except that, additional schools of magic cost additional skills, there are other magical skills to produce magic scrolls, make potions and other magic items; the really iconic powerful spells, the spell books of Liches and scrolls from the deepest dungeons, are written in dead languages, so to become truly unique and powerful, a Magic User... must... learn... ancient languages useless in the Sandbox except for deciphering spells!!!!!!!!!!!! In addition, I the strength permits them, Magic Users can learn any weapon and any armor up to Chain Mail, You can cast spells in chain mail if both of your hands are free! Based on this, it is easy to see, how a magic user can be absorbed in his/her magical studies and not have any outside skills worthy of note.

One last thing, professional development aside, there are no additional skill points given out on regular basis. However, a player character may elect to learn any additional skill at any time. This must be role-played. Player must spend 3 months - 2 years living in an environment where a given skill is practiced, have means of learning that skill and must be actively learning it. So, to learn juggling, you have to be accepted into a troupe of performance, who will teach it to you. It is really a role-playing/story telling mini-game and there is no limit to it per se.

Of course, I missed the post about the difference between Runequest skills and AD&D non-weapin proficiencies, but I will have to cover it another time! 


  1. Brooser Bear,

    That's good about the wizards being able to wear mail armor. Makes absolute sense they should be protected if their hands are free.

    You mention the Dungeoneering Survival Guide, Oriental Adventure, and Wilderness Survival Guides. I looked up the Dungeoneering one, and it says it was published in 1986, which is after my time, and I'm not familiar with it, or the others. The only references I have to any of these is from the original Little Brown Books, and other OD&D sites, talking about Wilderness Survival as a reference work. As far as I can tell, that last one isn't the same thing as written here, and may have been a game of it's own. What are all these books about? I've read that TSR began making new "Core RuleBooks" that were supplements, but with bloat, it was a gimmick to get you to buy more hard cover books.

    So, it sounds like you pick a class, or roll up a background, or ancestry, and there are moderate to moderately large sets of skills to pick from for that specific class, etc. Ok.

    If a fighter, or other character has 4 weapons they are proficient with, can they pick up a weapon that is at hand (like in a prison break scenario) and use that one with a minus to hit/dam? For instance, I don't have any training with a spear, but I can guarantee you, that I could use one well enough to have a pretty good chance of killing people with it! Even against a trained knife fighter, I'd take no training and a spear, vs, no training and no spear.

  2. You don't roll up your background in Midlands, you tell me what you want your background to be. Based on what you tell me, I offer you a choice of skills from appropriate skill sets. I have them on laminated cards, typically 6 - 10 skills per set. A lot more attractive choices than you have available points.

    With regards to the supplement books, WToC re-issued them for the 3rd edition plus, but these were different books. You can go on e-bay and find all these AD&D 1st edition books for pennies on the dollar.

    Wizards can't cast spells in Plate Mail Armor. Too restrictive, and you can't speak out the Verbal component from inside the Great Helm that covers all of your face. They can wear chain mail if their strength and constitution is high enough. If they are weak, they will get tired faster. I am the bane of the Power Gamer because every stat has a significant bearing in play, and if you min-max, you will hobble your character in a big way.

    In AD&D, anybody can use a weapon they aren't trained with, they just suffer a large penalty. If you were a fighter, you would suffer a -2 penalty To Hit, if a Magic User, -5 To Hit. Also, as everyone advances in level, they learn additional weapons.

    Anything you would like to know about the Oriental Adventures and the survival guides?

  3. Brooser Bear,

    You may have already covered this, and I just missed it while absorbing all this new data, if so, sorry. If you successfully complete a skill check, how often can you attempt to improve your skill percentage? After each success, just once per week, one check per month?

    It makes sense that in a game like D&D, where somatic movements are used for magic, that plate armor isn't ok to cast spells in. I'm using the term 'mail' in its historical sense, which is the term an actual medieval person would have known it as. After no one was really using Mail, any longer, (Except some mercenaries with Claidhmores, from Ireland in the 1600s), they mistakenly started calling "Chain Mail" in the early 1700s. Since the modern English term Mail comes from Mayle in medieval English, which was Maille in French, Maglia in Italian, all deriving from Macula in Latin. In Latin, Macula meant "mesh of the net," since it IS a net of rings, not a chain. So Chain-Net is a misnomer. They got all kinds of terminology on armor and swords mixed up in later eras, especially the Victorian Era. Mail however, is tied on at the joints, and belted at the waist, and is basically form fitting and like a second skin. Plate is more maneuverable than people generally realize, but not quite so much as flexible mail.

    If you can't wear a great helm while speaking spells, is a Roman style, Galea, open face helmet ok? How about a bascinet with a raisable visor that locks on a spring pin, and can be dropped after speaking, or casting spells, if arrows are fired?

    I'm assuming that stats are still rolled for with 3d6? The whole min-maxing thing was going on when I was playing, but not to the extent of nowadays, where there are skill-trees, and you have to have the perfect string of choices or you can't keep up with the rest of the party, or so I've read. I don't like the obsessionality of that kind of 'play.' It's too much like accounting, and not like fun. If every stat is that critical, what happens to PCs that roll some lower stats? How can they keep up if you are a bane to those that have less than perfect stats? (I'm sure that isn't accurate, but how do you distinguish rulings against min-maxed stats that are low, as from naturally rolled lower stats).

    Anything I would like to know about Oriental Adventures and the Survival Guides? Yes. Does the Dungeoneers Survival Guide give actual tips on how to get through a dungeon environment, or is it something more along the lines of tables and charts, kind of like the players' handbook? When I looked it up, it didn't have much data beyond a cover, a publication date, etc. Are there any special tools or equipment it mentions beyond 10' poles, 50' ropes, caltrops, flaming oil, etc? Do you use flaming oil in your campaign, or something like it?

    So, if a player says I want to play a son of a wealthy son of a sovereign Prince of a City-State, that is an acceptable background to pick? Lemme guess.... (Brooser Bear taking off the gloves in preparation for a player-beat down....) Brooser Bear: "No, you can't be a rich princeling. First off, you're a woman. One with an 18 charisma, and you sell your body to old wizards who teach you a few spells here and there. This goes back to Merlin and Morgane le Fay. All the PCs in my world are women, and every one of them has to sell her body in exchange for learning spells. Nobody gets to be anything else. Except the other character background I allow, which is chimney sweeps. And they have to sell their bodies to old men, too. The whole world's economy is based on these things: women, chimney sweeps, and lots of old men. Old men all over the damn place! You think there isn't any magic in sweeping out a chimney? Those are your choices and you'll like it! ;)

  4. Neal,

    I addressed your comments in the current post, MIDland Character Creation.