Posted on : 13-08-2013 | By : Brian | In : Game Design, Musings, Role-Playing Games
I recently read the most recent iteration of the D&D Next playtest, and was pleasantly surprised. I’ll breeze past the part where I thought it was very good, because that’s not what this post is about. This post is about knowledge skills.
D&D Next handles knowledge skills in a way I kind of dig. You get one or more fields of lore; these are things like Religious Lore, Forbidden Lore, Military Lore, Cultural Lore (in a specific culture or region), and so forth. When you make a roll to recall something related to one of your fields of lore, you get a +10 to the roll.
I like this for two reasons. First, it’s easy to adjudicate and there’s some amount of overlap. Want to recall something about an Aundarian general who held a particular pass for six days against overwhelming odds? That’s Military Lore, or it could be Cultural Lore (Aundair). Easy. Just pick an applicable field of lore and move on.
The other reason I like it is the +10 bonus. Seems high, right? It feels a bit like a tacit acknowledgement that failing knowledge rolls is usually just a null result that adds nothing to the story.
“I want to recall how to read these runes! I roll a . . . 5.”
“You can’t read them.”
The +10 bonus doesn’t ensure success, but it makes it very likely, and it’s a nice reward for investing in a knowledge skill.
All of this has given me an idea for another system of knowledge skills, one that doesn’t require any rolling at all. It goes like this:
When you create your character or level or whatever, you pick some number of Lore Skills. Lore Skills are things like Tactics, Arcane Lore, Religion, Underworld Savvy, or whatever. Things that your characters can know. When you want to recall a bit of information relating to a Lore Skill you have, you do. No roll. Having the Lore Skill means you know information relating to it, and not having the Lore Skill means you don’t.
But what about things that are really obscure? That’s where the Misinformation rule comes in. Sometimes the player stretches the bounds of a Lore Skill. Sometimes a particular bit of knowledge is known to too few people for it to reasonably be recalled, even if it would fall under the purview of a Lore Skill the player has. Sometimes you just want to make things . . . interesting.
When you want to, you can employ the Misinformation rule, which goes like this: I’m going to give you 25XP (or whatever, depending on the XP scale in the system you’re using). In exchange, you recall information but that information is incorrect in some potentially hazardous way. I know it’s incorrect and you know it’s incorrect, but your character doesn’t. You’re free to ignore this information, but if you act on it I’ll give you another 25XP.
So, most of the time simply having a Lore Skill is enough to get you the information you need. No rolling, no potential of boring failures. When failure might wind up being interesting, the GM hands out some Misinformation to stir the pot a bit.