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A New Idea for Skills:

by Geoff Gander

Ever notice that, as characters advance, their skills do not increase by a large margin? For example, a starting character can have an 18 Intelligence, granting them an extra three skill slots when he or she is first created - allowing an initial seven slots total. This is quite phenomenal, but understandable given that an 18 Intelligence is the highest attainable by a mortal in the D&D game.

What I have found to be objectionable is the standard amount of extra skill slots gained by all characters, at only one extra slot every four levels, such that a character, no matter what his or her Intelligence might be, will receive one extra slot at fifth level, another at ninth level, and so on. It would be much more logical to apply the bonus for high Intelligence at every level at which skills can be gained. This reflects the general view that the higher one's Intelligence is, the more likely they are to pick up of new things, or improve what they already know.

This also would make gaining new skills more meaningful, and more open to possibilities. Having one extra skill slot after four levels' worth of adventuring seems quite paltry, given the time it takes, and the number of experiences a character is sure to encounter. For example, under the current system, a character can travel all over the Sea of Dread, meet interesting cultures, sail an awful lot, swim, and navigate the seas themselves, but can only choose one skill to gain or improve. Under my system, even if a character only gains two more slots, it can better reflect what the character has actually experienced.

Here is an example to show how this system would work, using the same character under the current system, and under the new one:

Rolf the Warrior has an Intelligence of 15, which not only grants him an extra language when his character is created, or for use later on in life; it also grants him one extra skill slot on top of the four that everyone receives when they are created - giving him five total.

He decides to take Swimming (Constitution), Boating (Intelligence), Glassblowing (Dexterity - his profession before he decided to take up monster-bashing), Tracking (Intelligence), and Drinking (Constitution). For his extra language he chooses Thyatian on top of his native Heldannic. As he adventures, Rolf travels all over southern Brun and northern Davania, crossing the Sea of Dread several times (no small accomplishment in itself) and making himself known in several port cities. He is even imprisoned in Kastelios for two months for theft, and he spends one and a half years in the city and its environs.

When he reaches fifth level, Rolf would normally be allowed one extra skill slot, as per the rules. He would have a considerable range of choices, but could only choose one skill. He decides to take Navigation (Intelligence), a logical choice, given that he would undoubtedly have picked something up from his numerous trips over the sea from the sailors he met. Unfortunately, this rules does not reflect Rolf's whole experience - he would probably have picked up the local dialect of Milenian while in Kastelios, or he could have learned about the local legends and history.

Under my new system, Rolf would gain two skill slots, a slight improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. In this case, Rolf could still take Navigation, but he could also take Milenian - Kastelios dialect (Intelligence) as a skill, or he could take Local History - Kastelios (Intelligence), or something else entirely. In any case, it would assist Rolf's player in developing his character more in accordance with what Rolf has experienced.

Compared to other fantasy role-playing games, D&D falls a bit behind in the area of skills - an essential element for rounding out a character in my view. I believe my modification, which simply extends the Intelligence bonuses at first level to all levels in which skills are gained, can even this score somewhat. It also does not represent a radical departure from "canon" rules - it merely bends them to better accommodate what I see as game realities.