Monday, June 05, 2006

search for traps

artwork by aaron williams; copyright aaron williams; used without any permission whatsoever; see for more

I've always wanted to see a gamer joke of a thief typing TRAPS into google.

Always thought that would be funny.

However, this post is about more than a silly "play on words." Instead, it's about a few redudent and useless skills -- Spot, Listen, Search, Hide, Move Silently -- that continues to vex me.

So. Today, I'm going to get rid of these five skills from the game and in the end you'll thank me.

Let's start with the obvious. Spot/Listen and Hide/Move Silently are effectively NOTICE and STEALTH. The fact that they've been split into separate skills is a throw back to the antiquaited 1st edition desire to split thief skills into as many catagories as possible.

[Thieves, in fact, still defy all the other conventions of D&D classes, but we're not there yet.]

So. The first conclusion for correcting this "stupidity" is to make two skills where once there were four. Easy. Done. You can do this right now in five seconds with a sharpie.

You don't even have to read the rest of this post.

But what about Search?

Ah. Good catch. What about Search?

What do we do with this really really silly skill. After all, it's effectively the same as Spot, right?


Here's a REAL problem with the D&D system that I'm not sure anyone has addressed (certainly no one on the design team).

ACTIVELY looking for something requires one skill and PASSIVELY looking for something requires another. Which isn't a problem, if the entire game runs on this logic. But sadly, it doesn't. Because ACTIVELY or PASSIVELY listening requires only one skill.

Why do people with EARS have such a huge advantage over those with EYES?

If actively LOOKING for something really that different from wide peripheral vision? Enough so in a game with only TWO social skills (BLUFF and DIPLOMACY) that we need to break EYE Perception into two separate die rolls?

Really?So, that's a real problem for those looking to streamline their skill choices. My vote, of course, is to remove Search from the game entirely.

That frees us up to do some really fun stuff in a second.


Noticing things is only important when dealing with OBSTACLES. By obstacles, I mean ambushes, traps, treasure under pillows, wizards going for wands hidden under their robes (no wait, that sounded dirty), and secret doors*.

Actually finding important clues that deal with the plot HAVE to be found. A note written to the queen on the body of a dead orc, is probably important enough to justify a PROP. And certainly important enough that someone HAS to find it.

Requiring a roll to find it, is lame.

DM (to himself): Well. They all failed the ambush Spot. Which means they all have low Wisdom or something. Let's see if I can find this note hidden from them as well.

How smart of a DM are you, if this is an important thing to "beat" the PCs this?

Search, therefore, should be only used to hide keys to treasure chests, secret command words, secret doors to treasure vaults, and to notice that the limping orc is someone that you fought before.

But, all of these things require SIGHT. And D&D just isn't specialized enough in my opinion to warrent different skills for different senses, let alone two skills for vision.

Search is gone.

And if you don't believe me, tell me which skill you use to notice a smell or to feel bugs on your arm?

$2 to the guy who can tell me.

Therefore we have reduced FIVE skills to TWO. Listen, Search and Spot become NOTICE and Hide and Move Silently become STEALTH.

For those of you who find this too radical of a game change, stop reading now, because I'm about to remove them from the game as well.

Perception rolls and Hiding rolls are far too important to any GAME to be available to only a handful of classes. These rolls come up 10 to 20 times more than any other kinds of skill rolls in the game. Seriously, when was the last time a PC made a perform (juggling) roll?

If the skills aren't equally weighted in terms of use, than it's really bad game design to charge the same number of skill points during character creation for them. Don't you think?

In fact, I would argue since the classes already take into which classes have access to this stuff as class skills and which don't, the translation into a level based bonus is cake.

Classes like Monk and Rogue that include the skills as a class skill gain a NOTICE/STEALTH bonus equal to their class level (plus appropriate Attribute bonus) and classes that don't get a bonus equal to HALF their class level (round down).

You can no longer put points into normally, and it basically becomes a function of class. Hiding and Seeing things are no longer variables that can be augemented by a handful of classes into monster skills and basically unattainable by others.


End of lesson.

1 comment:

Herb said...

I have been off of great cleave for a while, just catching up now.

I agree about the senses thing, typically the GM cops out and says well just make a Wisdom roll (apparently in conventional D&D you aren't allowed to take ranks in smelling, touching, or tasting). My groups tend to use Survival as a scent skill, just because the link it has to tracking by scent (which is really the only thing the 'smell' check gets used for).

Interesting way of dealing with the notice/stealth skill. This would of course, make it a class feature. This in turn means that, if you are not in a class that gets a stealth bonus, you cannot become more adept at your stealth ability. Some people might argue against that, after all, even a commoner can learn to be very good at hiding/moving quietly.

Well, I'm posting rather late on this, so... I'll just keep catching up with everything I missed in the past month.