Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Background and Skills (Variant Rule)

In addition to a character race and class, each character has a background which defines their secondary rules-set. This background should be determined randomly, though the soft-hearted GM might allow a player to choose his background or to allow an heir to a previously deceased character to share his predecessor’s background.

The suggested skills for each background are just that—suggestions. A player who can come up with a good (emphasis on “good”) rationale why his background should provide an advantage in a given situation should be allowed to make use of it. At the same time, it is understood that for the most part, characters did not rise above apprentice or journeyman level in their former professions, having long ago left their old, safe lives to take up the call of the adventurer.

How a given profession turned into an adventuring career is a matter for individual players and DMs to work out. A magician from a barbarian background may have left his people as a child to apprentice with a great mage, or may be a kind of shaman for his people. A rogue with the household servant background may have left after robbing his former master, or might have been a spy in some noble’s employ. A wizard from a soldier’s background may have spent many years as a common mercenary before a chance magical encounter made him aware of his abilities, causing him to abandon sword and steel for the more subtle Arts.

It should be noted that in general any character should be able to attempt to undertake any action; having a background in a particular area grants a modest bonus only. (This same philosophy underlies my revision of the thief class as well, as will be shown later.) There is one exception to this rule: Only a character with a background in crafting can hope to create quality, salable items, let alone items of sufficient quality to enchant as magic items.

d100

Background

Skills/Bonuses

01-05

Barbarian

Survival in home terrain, perception, +2 to saves vs. Endurance

06-10

Hunter/Trapper

Survival in home terrain, set small traps, stealth

11-15

Herder

Animal handling and husbandry, survival in home terrain

16-25

Farmer

Agriculture, animal husbandry, foraging

26-27

Herbman/Healer

Healing, creating minor poultices that can grant add’l saves vs. poison or disease or heal 1d3 hp (cost 1d3 days gathering herbs or 50 gp per poultice)

28-34

Menial worker/Slave

Gains +1 to Str and Con

35-36

Household servant

Bargaining, cooking, mending, social checks with aristocracy, some appraisal

37-45

Craftsman

Ability to make quality items and appraise within craft, can make a living of Skill + Wis mod gp a week

01-07

Tanner/Leatherworker

08-14

Cook/Baker

15-21

Smith

22-28

Mason/Carpenter

29-35

Tailor/Weaver/Bootmaker

36-42

Bowyer/Fletcher

43-49

Woodworker

50-56

Jeweler

57-63

Armorer

64-70

Dyer

71-77

Brewer/Winemaker

78-84

Chandler

Make candles, torches, soap, lye, etc.

85-91

Locksmith

Disable small mechanical traps and pick locks, +1 bonus to die if rogue

92-00

Other

46-47

Alchemist

Ability to make magical potions, ingredients and costs of individual potions up to DM, can identify potions without sampling on roll of 6 or better.

48-51

Miner

Knowledge of underground and ores, detect slopes as a dwarf

52-55

Sailor

Handling and maintenance of medium to large sea vessels

56-57

Navigator

Navigation by the stars, some sailing skill

58-61

Fisher

Handling and mending small boats, fishing, creating nets

62-64

Sage

+1 Int, Knowledge in 1d3 subjects

65-68

Innkeeper/staff

Special skill in picking up rumors (gets twice as many rumors as other PCs), cooking, appraise drinks

69-71

Beggar/Harlot

Sense motive, disguise OR seduction

72-74

Gambler

Gambling, bluffing and sensing bluffing

75-77

Swindler

Engaging in bluffs and cons, sizing up marks

78-80

Mountebank/Gypsy

Ability to use magical items not normally allowed by class (20% malfunction), fortunetelling, minor potions

81-83

Smuggler

Appraise items, social checks when offering bribe

84-87

Minstrel

Entertain, sing, and play 1d3 instruments

88-91

Merchant

Appraise items, bargain, knowledge of routes and resources in home area

92-93

Cleric

Knowledge of a particular religion, its hierarchy and membership, sanctuary if in good standing

94-95

Astrologer/Fortune Teller

Read omens indicating whether action will have good or bad result, need to roll a 6 or better on the skill die to read successfully, a 1 gives opposite indication.

96

Official/Nobleman (60%/40%)

Knowledge of the hierarchy and legal structure of a realm, social checks with other officials/nobles.

97-99

Soldier/Mercenary

01-20

Cavalry

Riding, care of horses, proficiency with lance and longsword, +1 to hit on horseback

21-85

Infantry

+2 to saves vs. forced march, automatic proficiency in spear and shortsword, +1 to hit when setting spear if a warrior

86-00

Archer

Automatic proficiency with bow or crossbow, making and fletching arrows, +1 to hit with missile weapons if warrior or rogue

00

Player choice


Note the distinction between a background and the skills that come out of it. “Smuggler” is a background; “appraise” is a skill common to smugglers. This becomes an important distinction as characters learn new skills--one has a background, but one can learn new skills.

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