I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Saturday, June 17, 2017

GURPS D&D, part II: Skills

Click here for part I, where I explain why D&D does attributes better than GURPS. I started writing this because of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, but I have no idea if they use a similar system to the one I propose here, since I haven't played GURPS for a while. Let me know in the comments!

One of the reasons I stopped playing GURPS was "too many skills". I know some versions of TSR-D&D (and, obviously, 3e) had lots of skills too, but eventually I decided I prefer 4e and 5e in this regard.

How many skills do I need? Well, around a dozen will do, but I'd take a few extra skills if needed.

GURPS has about 18 skills... that start with the letter A!

But - wait - there is more! At least a few of those MUST be taken with a specialty, so you have Area Knowledge (Neighborhood) and Area Knowledge (City) as two separate skills.

Unfortunately, choosing skills is not enough. Each skill has a different difficulty - easy, medium, hard, or very hard - with different costs (mercifully easier in GURPS 4e than in 3e).

At least you don't have to buy all skills you want to use. Some skills default from attributes, so if you have Intelligence 15 you automatically get Accounting 9. Unless you have the Finance skill. Then you have Accounting equal to Finance -4. Or Merchant -5. You also get a discount to Accounting if you have Finance and want to raise the other skill...

Is accounting a bad example for D&D? Try swords: there is a skill for broadswords, other for short swords, rapier, saber, smallsword, two-handed swords... and they all default to each other.

Even if you don't play GURPS, I think you can see why some people have headaches while reading it.

(And yes, I will STILL say that GURPS is a simple game to PLAY, although character creation can be a hassle).

Sample skills from the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
Still, GURPS has some advantages over D&D when dealing with skills. Probabilities make way more sense, for example. Nope, the Strength 10 guy won't beat the Strength 20 gal in an arm-wrestling match 20% of the time. Maybe 1% of the time, probably less.

The problem, then, is the skill list.

Fortunately, GURPS has a built in solution: Wildcard skills. They replace ALL the skill in any given "umbrella". If you have a "Sword!" skill you can fight with all swords and knives, fast-draw your sword, and jump around while fencing. The good thing is that you can still use GURPS's humongous list of skills if you need to know exactly how Aerobatics work. Or Accounting.

For a "GURPS D&D" game, its easy to see you can use these skills in lieu of classes.

Of course, in D&D classes are often MORE important than attributes/abilities, so a few tweaks might be useful.

Try this: all skills default to Attribute/2, and each +1 bonus costs 12 points. Since you have a bonus instead of a fixed number, you can add it to different attributes: an Dexterity 16 Intelligence 8 fighter with a Barbarian! +5 skill attacks with a skill of 13 but can also identify plants in the wild with a skill of 9 - better than than the group's wizard!

This is even better than Wildcard skills, because I don't want barbarians to jump around while wielding a rapier... but "Swashbucklers!" certainly will! It is all about archetypes, IMO.

Also form the RC. Same page, actually.
Attributes are still useful to define speed, HP, etc., but less useful for class abilities. Which is good because now my barbarian doesn't have to be able to pick locks (high Dexterity) in order to be a fearsome fighter.

It also fixes the need for a skill list, and makes the "Dexterity as an uber stat" a lot less severe.

Come to think of it, this system would also work very well for D&D games.

BTW, "specialty" skills cost 6 points and are added on top of the existing skills (cannot be more than twice the wildcard skill bonus). If you want multiple specialty skills, all but the highest cost 1 point only (then you can have Barbarian! +5, Axe +8, Survival +7, Climbing +7, etc).

Is this too complicated? I think it is easier than 3.x D&D or BECMI weapon proficiencies, but what can I say... I am a GURPS fan after all!

4 comments:

  1. I just read part 1, and you said you'd continue if there was much interest… but got no comments. Well please allow me to note my interest in hearing more!

    Are there any other skill based games (Unisystem and D6 System come to mind) that you've looked at for possible models for continuing? And plenty of systems manage with only 4 stats, so I'm not sure why Gurps struggles so much there (I own the 4e core books, but it always struck me that they implemented the attributes poorly).

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    1. Thanks for your interested; yeah, it didn't got much attention so I moved to other things, but I plan to write a few more.

      I hadn't planned looking at other systems - GURPS and D&D are the ones I'm most familiar with - but I do enjoy Unisystem, D6 Star Wars, Pendragon, etc, and I'm always on the market for good ideas.

      The thing with GURPS stats, and I think most games with 4 stats will suffer from similar problems, is that a few talents are hard to put in the same basket: for example, we all know people (and, more important, fictional characters) that are very "book-smart" but not necessarily charismatic or disciplined, and vice-versa.

      If you want less stats, one possible solution would be folding Strength and Constitution/Health together, etc.; but I like six abilities because its close to the "magic number seven". In fact I think D&D could have perception as a separate stat, but ultimately I only make such changes when I fell strongly about one issue or another, and I'm ok with D&D stats (well, I'm quite okay with GURPS stats too, I just think Intelligence covers too much).

      http://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com.br/2015/12/granularity-ideal-level-of-detail.html

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  2. I like where you are coming from and where you are going with this. Please continue.

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