What is Not Permitted is Forbidden - RPG's and Detailed Skills Systems

What is Not Permitted is Forbidden - RPG's and Detailed Skills Systems

Over at the Black Gate, a Game Master discusses why he ran an old-school style game for his friends instead of Pathfinder, a system he’s also very familiar with.

I used this when explaining S&W to one of my new players. Now, in Baldur’s Gate, he would click on the ‘Find Traps’ skill and if a trap was nearby, it would be outlined on screen in a red box if detected. And he is aware that in a modern game (like Pathfinder), you would roll a 20-sided dice against your Find Trap skill.

But I explained it won’t work that way in S&W. After I described the environment, he would have to tell me how he goes about looking for traps. Does he examine the ceiling? Does he roll a round stone across the floor? Does he put his fingers in the mouth of the idol (always a dangerous move!)?

To try and bluff your way past the guard at the city gate, you don’t simply roll against your Bluff skill. You have to tell the same story to the Referee that your character is telling to the guard. With appropriate gestures (heh heh).

One of the things that grew to really annoy me about Pathfinder – outside of the “on rails” modules and the ever increasing bloat of rules (also brought up) was the implicit assumption, especially in society play, that when it came to skills or achieving something, if it wasn’t allowed, it was forbidden.

It felt like you had skills for everything. Except that no individual character, or small group of them, could have skills in everything. And if the module or adventure called for a knowledge: obscure plants, and you didn’t have it? And it was over a 10 DC? And you didn’t have hours to spend at the library?

Tough.

Yes, I know that in homebrew play, the GM could do as we did with ACKS, T&T, or others, and if you came up with a plausible reason, or everyone had a default zero skill, or….

But if you played by the rules – required for society play – knowledge skills had to be trained. If a skill test was called out, and you weren’t, you were screwed. If you failed the roll – no matter how well you role played or justified knowing that based on your character, background, etc. – you were screwed. And it was all or nothing.

In short – skills, which at first look like a good thing, remove your ability to choose, and judge.

As an aside, virtue is something that must be chosen – virtue compelled is not virtue. Creating more laws putting in place what must be done not only creates more ways for someone to become a criminal, but even in compelling them to do the right thing, removes choice. Forbids that which is not required.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.