Houses Are People Houses Are People

Old school roleplay musings

Skills as Tags

Skills as Tags

Skills are tags that sometimes modify attribute checks. A skill may often allow a player to avoid needing to make a check at all.

Skills grant +1 to related rolls until they improve. Once improved, they grant +2. If improved twice, they grant +3.

A player character will permanently gain a skill if he or she practices or studies it for 4 hours per day on a number of days determined by the referee. At the end of the hours spent training, check the most relevant attribute to attempt to reduce the number of days required to finish training by 1.

A player character will permanently improve a skill if he or she practices or studies it for 4 hours per day on a number of days determined by the referee. At the end of the hours spent training, check the most relevant attribute to attempt to reduce the number of days required to finish training by 1.

The Problem with Skill Dice

Many OSR games use a skill system that involves giving a specific subset of tasks a x in 6 chance instead of using the relevant attribute for a standard d20 check. This is unintuitive, clunky, not uniform, and scales oddly, implicitly preventing attributes from doing what they normally do.

For example, in a game without skills, if a player is trying to pick a lock with lockpicking tools and has a lockpicking set, dexterity or intelligence (or even wisdom) might be rolled, depending on what the referee thinks is most relevant to working with the lock. The referee might say that it’s trivially easy for a specific character and not require a roll.

Skill dice discourage imaginative, descriptive play in favor of using a skill from a sheet. A player might describe exactly how they overcome the lock after learning details about it from the referee. All of this is simpler, easier, and/or more interesting than having a separate dice mechanic for a lockpicking skill.

A stealth skill makes stealth about a stat and a die roll instead of about clever (and cleverly quiet) movement, distraction, and observation.

In addition to all of that, x in 6 skills introduce unnecessary overhead without meaningful benefit.