Thursday, May 23, 2013

ACKS Proficiencies by Subsystem

Well then! I hope you were an on-time backer of Domains At War.

Playing a few skirmishes with the product reminded me of how much fun 3E was in those early days, before you could feel the crushing weight of higher levels and later expansions - I'm a turn-based wargamer at heart.

Back to the regularly scheduled! I'm getting a lot of spam comments now, which I think means I'm an Internet Presence. That's what I'm going with, anyway, so I'll keep trudging along.

Proficiencies! I do not know why I worry at Chapter 4 of the ACKS core rulebook like a child at a loose tooth. But it ain't fell out yet, so here we go again.

Back here I took on all the 'profession' style proficiencies, where one could, instead of adventuring, sit and earn money like a regular 9-to-5'er. I'd been waffling back and forth about how to categorize the rest. The 'profession' proficiencies all interact at the ACKS economic level - where the passage of time allows for the movement of commerce in an abstract way - the same as domain income, for example. We're not trying to figure out *why* that domain income trickles up, outside a few broad strokes, we're just happy that it does. Same with the profession proficiencies - we're not playing Papers & Paychecks, so we handwave the day-to-day drudgery and say the Master Armorsmith makes 40gp/month. We don't care why unless the PCs are there finding out, or they're commissioning something.

So, there's a good way to look at it - what subsystem of the game does the proficiency interact with?

We'll operate under the assumption the previous posts eliminate the proficiencies that it tackled, so we've got a smaller list to work with - we eliminate Art, Craft, Performance, Animal Husbandry, Healing, Knowledge (which also subsumes Collegiate Wizardry, Theology, Naturalism), Alchemy, Profession, Engineering, and Seafaring. And, by extension, Labor, even though I hadn't touched on that one.

There may not be a lot of conclusions through this, but there'll be the seeds of ideas about where to go. Where am I going? Not sure yet. I know I want a background/profession system to replace a lot of this - the "mundane" things that aren't things that interact with the "DND" parts of the world - crafting is great, it needs to be there, but it's something that would exist if there were no dungeons or dragons. And perhaps that's the counterargument - plenty of people have run low|zero-magic games without wizards and clerics, so a lot of these proficiences would be outright removed. Starting from the other end then - removing the mundane proficiencies - is perhaps just as valid.

I'd also like to replace the whole darn thing with some sort of training system, either on the job or not - let someone fumble around rolling 18+'s on something for a while and they're bound to get better. How to do that without a lot of paperwork or a phone app is the problem.

 Aside from Personal Automaton, which I couldn't see playing a automaton-centered character without, these are all mostly proficiency-cost bonuses - i.e., spend a proficiency slot, take this bonus - act as if you're higher level, use less time, use less money - this is a set of the most "feat-like" of proficiencies, a group of proficiencies just here to support a specific subsystem introduced in the Player's Companion. I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying what it is - a group of choices there to provide higher efficiency at a class's main focus at the expense of breadth.

Manual of Arms should be a profession, boom, done. Siege Engineering, the same - add some text about sapping and it's a fun profession. That leaves Military Strategy - there's an 11+ "I.D. famous war stuff" roll, but the meat of the proficiency is the bonus to initiative for forces led by the character in Domains At War - and that's no small thing. The importance of having initiative in D@W cannot be understated. It kind of wants to be the third arm of a set of military professions alongside the other two - the professional military officer. I'll have to see if I can make that work now that I've got D@W's prerelease manuscripts.

There's a knowledge bit in Beast Friendship that should get subsumed into Knowledge, with Naturalism, which leaves the +2 to animal reaction rolls and the ability to take them as henchmen.  Command gives a morale bonus, that's fine. Leadership is a great proficiency - the domain morale bonus gives you some flexibility in the endgame to make hard decisions, and another henchman is always useful.  These play well with each other.

 These are  your specialize-your-mage proficiencies. It's interesting to look at what these all end up equating. Here we're just talking about how they effect magical research - Black Lore and Transmog. +2 ERL [effective research level] for either necromantic research or crossbreed creation. There's a bunch of room in here for other proficiencies for the other 'schools' of ACKS magic, as presented in the Player's Companion.

Magical Engineering is your bonus to magical research rolls, which is well worth a proficiency.

If nothing else, there needs to be more stuff here to choose from as far as "specializing" goes.

 These are all little situational bonuses in the movement/exploration subsystems - the only one that feels off here is Pass Without Trace - there's no reason that shouldn't be part of Tracking. These are decent "I'm more than my statistics" proficiencies.

Navigation and Survival could stand being combined into more of a Bushcraft sort of skill.

 Here's odd mechanics that are not quite 'skills', in the d20 parlance. Animal Training is a "light" profession - I'm thinking my profession system should have subsets, like a minor to a major in a B.S degree - there's no reason someone who does Animal Training wouldn't also have Animal Husbandry or Knowledge(Naturalism) alongside it.

Gambling's a weird one. On one hand, it should be there for the "we're in a tavern" occurrences - it's a very simple system as listed, and that's what's needed. On the other hand, there's text about raising stakes, which includes giving over real estate, and I'm not sure how often that's really going to occur - and that's about the only thing that would compel a player to take it multiple times. Maybe there's a Wild West game out there that has decently quick mechanics.

Comparing the monthly income to the chart on ACKS pg 39, it does at least seem like it'd work out over time as it would for a middle-range WSOP player (so says some light Googling), assuming Adequate/Comfortable hovers in today's middle class income. I don't think those guys clear dungeons during the off-season though.

Bargaining should be something anyone can do - why not? Haggling was a thing back in the day. Opposed reaction rolls already take Charisma into account, and any of the other applicable reaction-roll-boosting proficiencies can be made to apply - Diplomacy, if you're smooth, Intimidation, if you bully yourself into a deal, Mystic Aura as well.

Bribery - also something anyone should be able to do. That's a smooth mechanic and it's a shame to let it go to waste locked behind a proficiency door - if the PCs think to do it, let it happen.

 Ug, I should have ordered these alphabetically. Oh well.

There's precedence for Tracking, Trapping, and Survival to be a single "Bushcraft" sort of skill - Survival itself sort of implies you're tracking and trapping as part of the skill. Add a surface/land-locked Navigation, Land Surveying, and Mapping, and you've got  the makings of a Profession.

Heck, turn some of that underground, involve Caving, and you've got a tomb-raiding profession, or Dungeoncraft skill.

Arcane Dabbling is a good strong skill, as is Loremastery. Dwarven Brewing's right on the edge of that as well. Acrobatics is worth a proficiency, certainly.

Disguise and Mimicry are good things to let everyone try, perhaps with my previous post where I mathed up ACKS' default proficency rolls. Let Disguise and Mimicry be rolled at 18+ (modify roll by INT) without the proficiency.  Remember Disguise is implying you're trying to look like someone specific - knocking out Guardsman Tom to get his tunic and then trying to pass yourself off as any random guardsman, not Tom, shouldn't require more than a reaction roll when necessary.

All different sides of the same coin, depending if you're going for hearts, spines, minds, or twixt the nethers. Or animals.

 A lesson in what equals what.

1) Immunity to Paralysis + longevity (no tactical value) ==
2) Immunity to Disease ==
3) +2 to all saves ==
4) +4 to a certain spell effect ==
5) +2 to reflex-related saves + tumbling (strong tactical value)

 These boil down to spell-like abilities.

Lay On Hands is a very weak Cure Light Wounds, but even more limited in usage from what you'd get out of a Custom Power based on a first level spell. Magical Music is nearly a Charm + Sleep custom power with extended casting times. Mystic Aura is a Charm that lasts only while the target is with the caster.

Spellcaster proficiencies! Apostasy and Contemplation are stong. Wakefulness can have it's advantages.

Both Quiet Magic and Unflappable Casting have strong tactical use, as does Battle Magic, which also gets you a "light specialization" in dispelling/vs. magic resistance.

All three of Elementalism, Black Lore, and Transmog. give a -2 to target saves for their related theme - elemental spells (blasts, essentially), death or polymorph spells.

Elementalism adds +1 to damage die, and +1 HP/HD for summoned elementals. That's nice, but not as flavorful as what the other two give out, perhaps because evocation-focused wizards are a bit passe themselves. :)

Of Black Lore and Transmog., both give +2 ECL [effective caster level] for specific spell types (necromantic and polymorph (Not sure why that's not listed as just all Transmog spells?). They also take +2 ERL for necromantic research or crossbreed creation. I'll have to do some tinkering and fill that out a bit for other focus areas in ACKS. There really should be one for constructs.

So here's a mix. A few of these outright grant Thief abilities: Climbing, Eavesdropping, Prestidigitation (at half-level, there's call for a Cutpurse proficiency that eliminates the spellcasty bits). That's good.

Lockpicking, Skulking, Trapfinding all grant a bonus to those skills, plus a "act faster at penalty" mechanic for Lockpicking and Trapfinding. There was a lot of good conversation here at Autarch about allowing a thief custom progressions that would essentially specialize them at the outset, and not need to take proficiencies later to do it. I'm still mulling over my own treatise on surprise and how that would affect thief skills as well.

Sniping modifies thieves' backstab, and Ambushing gives the most basic ability to non-thieves. Those are good. Cat Burglary modifies Climb Walls, also a strong entry. Language is, of course, just a auto-succeed single-language Read Languages, which is why it's here. That's another proficiency that's always insisted upon a training/experience system.

Black Lore of Zahar, and from the Player's Companion, Grey Lore, show us that half-level-turning is about the value of a half of a proficiency. They both give penalties to target saves and bonuses to ECL, though Black Lore has a wider spread of covered spell types. Grey Lore has no research bonus, either. I'm going to guess that the value difference here is in the context cost of being a Chaotic character.

Righteous Turning, is, interestingly, the only proficiency to call in an attribute bonus (Wisdom) as it's granted modifier - everything else has been a flat bonus. It sticks out all the more since almost everywhere else, stat modifiers aren't used except in the usual old-school way.

So there's that - some directions to go in. I probably should firm up the Profession ideas and get those out of the way - that'd go a long way towards thinning this down into just the 'fantasy world' skills & proficiencies.

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