About Me

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Neal raised a number of interesting points regarding my use of skill checks in a previous post dated July 25, 2013, and I thought best to address it here.

One of the most fundamental questions raised is why use percentile dice in increments of five when I can use a d20 in increments of one? Well, the reason being is that it offers greater variety of possible outcomes to use a Percentile Die over a D20, but another reason is that percentile dice are used for skill checks (as in Runequest (RQ)- you must roll within the skill level to make the skill check and you must roll above it, to improve it). In MIDlands D&D, as in RQ, skills improve through successful usage, Abilities do not. It is NOT QUITE realistic that abilities remain stationary, but to be fair, adventure time keeps people from exercising and their abilities generally slowly deteriorate. So it is probably better that the character abilities stay chiseled in stone. By the same token,  strongly believe that Gygax was wrong, when he wrote that even a Wish spell could not permanently raise one's ability score(!), each casing of the Wish spell will raise the ability by 1/10 of 1 ability point. That is the prime example of the King Gygax being foolish.

In my example of Brent the Paratrooper, read here: http://midlandstales.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-better-way-to-do-skill-checks.html

I change Brent's Parachute Jumping Skill from a percentile based 43% to a d20 ability-like 8, you always round down! This was done when Brent tried teaching Jumping to buddy of his. We use the ability modifier, and for this I like Moldway's symmetrical universal ability modifier table from the ability checks and multiply it by 5 to use with the percentile dice throws typically used in skill checks. When teaching the skill to his buddy, Brent would suffer a 5% penalty since his own skill is not that strong.

How did I come up with this? Ability Checks are very useful for mediating complex social dynamics that may occur between player characters and NPC's.  Complex things, whose dynamics still challenge modern social science can best be mediated through a system of ability checks: thingslike teaching, carrying a conversation, negotiating, seducing, questioning and being questioned, falling in love, selling a used car. If facts and knowledge is involved, you do an INT check, if it is maturity and life experience that is needed to judge a situation, then it is a WIS check, when emotional issues are involved - trust, manipulation, empathy, assurance, social dominance, social graces, then it is a CHA check. If anybody wants to know the various ways of doing the ability check, just mention it I your comments and I will post on that. A complex social interaction between two participants should ALWAYS be role played and be mediated by a number of ability checks. A young magic user trying to become an apprentice to a great wizard, may try a variety of approaches as s/he role plays, and everything they do can be mediated/modified with an ability check. Attempts to seduce/impress will require CHA check, context of wits, INT, WIS ill be required to see through the game and ultimately it will be CHA when the magic user asks to be accepted. When teaching, the old Wizard will have to use CHA to establish trust and rapport with his apprentice, WIS to establish clear communication, and INT and his skills converted to the Ability scale to actually teach. Each roll will create modifiers that will express the teacher/apprentice relationship and will affect how much (if at all) the teacher will be helpful in learning a skill. When rolling to beat the skill, the student adds the teacher's success as a bonus to his percentile roll. Of course, there is role-playing and time spent, sometimes weeks and months, behind each roll.


  1. Brooser Bear,

    A wish being only good for an ability score gain of 1/10 of a point doesn't make sense, and isn't "heroic," either. It's been pointed out that most of Gygax's 'designs,' were actually arbitrary rules with 'patches,' on them, once he saw how many holes in the logic they created at the gaming table.

    Having the teacher add their modifiers to the student's chances to increase their percentage at a skill is a good one. Is that from Runequest, or your idea? Using the teacher's CHA, WIS, and INT to enable passing on of skills to the student via modifiers, is a good mechanic, as well. I'd never considered anything like that. Just doing it on adventures, "under stress," or going to a school for thieves, acrobats, swordsmanship, and spending time and money to learn the skill increase by 5% per time unit spent.

    Since you are asking if anybody wants to know the various ways of doing an ability check, count me as asking: "What are the ways of doing an ability check, oh great and bearded wise one?"

    So far as I know, you state you want to do a skill, you may need to go into a dialogue and do rules from your statements plus modifiers from your PC sheet. Other than that, its about as complicated as I've ever needed to be.

  2. I tweaked the Runequest skill improvement for teaching. Made it more intertwined with the role playing. Player has to interact with the NPC before making those INT, WIS, CHA rolls.

    There are different things you can do with ability checks, I will do a separate post about it. Also, since each skill is based on a certain ability (STR,INT,WIS,DEX,CON,CHA) if you have a lot of skills on a same ability and if these skills get high enough, it will drive that ability up. I just haven't quantified the arithmetics yet.