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D&D 3E
On races, skills, and realism. 
13th-Oct-2003 07:25 am
One of the house rules I've become partial to implimenting is the increase in skill throughout the level, rather than just at the beginning of the level.

1.) Have not let the characters spend their skill points when they gain a level, and instead spend active working time in-game training in that skill to earn the points. This makes it seem less like "Oh, I've reached a new level and now I'm instantly better at this skill."

2.) If characters announce they're spending their down-time training with a weapon, I let them take +1 to-hit bonus (NOT damage bonus) with that type of weapon and ONLY that type. For example, one of the characters in my game is a female dwarf who specializes in spiked chains. Every level, I let her train for 5 hours game-time and take +1 to-hit for that weapon. If she switches to another weapon- or even another size or model of chain- she doesn't get that bonus. Also, if they train 5 hours in a particular skill, they can take +1 for every 5 hours they train, to a maximum of +5 per level- not +5 in each skill, but +5 spread through all skills. They have the choice to put all the points in one skill, or spread them out evenly.

(I am ignoring the max ranks rule here- It strikes me as too unrealistic for my taste. The rule is balanced, yes, but balance doesn't always mean realistic, and I like a certain level of realism in my games.)

Which brings on the issue with human vs. nonhuman characters. No one in our group wants to play a human. Why? Not because other races are more powerful, but because they're more *interesting*. Let's face it, humans are boring. We are humans, we live in a human society, we learn about human cultures and we interact with humans every single day of our lives. It gets old. This is a fantasy game, so why on *earth* would we want to continue to be the same old boring race we see and interact with every day in a fantasy world? Why should we be punished for wanting to break away from the norm? If all these other races existed in real life, trust me, the world would NOT have the precious "balance" AD&D tries so hard to maintain.

I've played too long with players to rape the rules to the point that they have perfectly "legal" characters who are completely unbalanced to the rest of the party. (This person also usually always plays fighters- not because he likes the class, but for the extra feats.) So I've given up trying to maintain balance when it comes to the characters.

Instead, I tell them to explain themselves. This is usually much harder for them than creating a character who is overpowered. If they can come with a good, legitimate, and most importantly, *believable* reason WHY their character is the way he or she is, then they can do it- and they have to convince the other players, not just me. And them I make them stick to their character description.

So far this has worked quite well for me- but if anyone can see any problems I may have in the future, let me know about them so I can find ways to counter them.

Thank you!
13th-Oct-2003 10:27 am (UTC)
I can agree and disagree on a lot of points. While it adds for a touch of realism to tuck in what you've pointed out, it also breaks a couple of, as I see them to be, well balanced rules. With a generally well behaved group who can respect the roleplay and not min/max the rules, then I say green light on your house rules. I just wouldn't suggest bringing it to any cons. ^_^
14th-Oct-2003 02:09 pm (UTC) - You take the fun out of D&D
1.) This is a game, people play to have fun, they don't want to spend precious gaming time actively working at new skills (Unless your crew plays D&D 24/7) because people have "lives". Then again, they could all just say; "right, well i'm training in all the blah blah skills i've written down on my character sheet" and go silent. So you'd have to skip however long ahead it takes them to do this in character time, and then 'moving right along' back to adventure time.

2.) As i said before, it's a matter of "timeskip" as i like to call it. Your players could simply find a safe place to train, and spend a whole week training in one weapon. 168 hours in a week right? -56 hours sleep if your a human or 28 hours in your an elf. and probably a few extra hours for feeding and such. now if you're giving them, +1 bonuses every 5 hours, i can see how ludicriously good they could be with one single weapon at just level 1. As for the skills, this is also unbalanced, they could become godlike within week(s) of just staying in one place and training. You could have a level 1 barbarian who can spot a bee on the horizon and can also hear that same bee. Sheesh, and we all know how crap barbarians are with that sort of thing.

3.) This may be a fantasy game, but are you trying to tell me humans are lame? Humans are involved in every fantasy game. Because the tales of myth and legend all contain heroics from humans. Another thing, humans are not boring, unless you think perhaps that you are some kind of mythical creature irl (perhaps you are delusional, i do not know).

4.) Explaining themselves is a good idea, but only as a character plot. Usually it's a good idea to get your PC's to make up a character plot from the start. Get them to give you a background of their character, brief or short, depending on the level they start out on. Apart from that, it's just a matter of adventuring, enjoying yourself, dungeons crawls and a good story plot.

5.) Now finally i shall explain to you possibly why you find yourself with overpowered characters. Perhaps it is because you are not a good DM, and i shall endeavour to explain why. Perhaps they have too many encounters and gain XP too fast. Perhaps they're just really good rollers and get lots of high scores. Somethings you have to understand about D&D, is that some players are 'meant' to be the Human Shields, out the front "kicking-so-much-fucking-ass" that "you-just-can't-believe-it" and you're all like "OMFG how is he DOING THAT!?". Whilst other players are meant to be in the back, casting spells and whatnot. Then there's the rogues, who're supposed to creep up along the sides, picking the weak ones off etc. You see, it all fits in, and the XP is divided evenly, no matter who kicks the most ass or not. You think it's unfair that Human's, if played as fighters can get more feats, kick more ass, and have more HPs than elfs rogues and wizards? Well how the hell do you think they feel when they see you go "oh there's a trap" or pick some dude off in the horizon with one bow/cross. Each class is unique in it's own way, you have to understand this. I was a level four druid once and i managed to entangle a high-level powerful bad guy 520ft away for a total of 3 minutes. The guy had chosen to run because his minions were getting wooped and the DM wanted him to get away so he could report back to the big bad boss. Anyway, our level 7 paladin swooped down at the guy with a griffon or something and totally mauled the fuck outta him. The moral of the story is, every character has it's kicks, don't try to make the game better with modifications of your own. Espically INCREDABLY UNBALANCED ones, like your own.
14th-Oct-2003 06:32 pm (UTC) - Part 1 (because comments only allow 4300 characters)
Your reply leads me to believe I was not as clear in my post as I had hoped, as you are making incorrect assumptions.

1.) Whenever there is downtime in-game- such as the characters stay in town for a week waiting on a certain NPC to arrive, or whatever, then I "fast forward" game time and the players just tell me if they were training during that time or just being lazy and getting drunk. And often we do play D&D almost 24/7 some weeks, as some of us are unemployed for physical handicaps and the rest of us are self-employed. We almost always have a game running in the background of daily life, whenever we feel like looking at the IRC screen, we post an action.

2.) There is a *cap* on skill gaining each level. They get a total of +5 per level in regular skills, and only +1 per level in any weapon. This is to reflect that a character who is extremely dedicated to a certain craft, moreso than normal, would naturally get better at it than a character who didn't train as much over the time spent. Again I say that characters have to state when they are working on something- if they forget, their loss. Also keep in mind that this sort of thing will only work in a group of well-behaved players who use such benefits to help flesh out their character. And one other thing, having 14million skill points in Craft (cheesemaking) really makes the character uberpowerful and deadly. Sure.

3.) Maybe you didn't read that correctly. I said we see humans every day and interact with them every day, and the point of a fantasy game is to break away from the "everyday" thing. Yes, humans have their good points and are capable of some pretty fantastic things, but in the circles I move in and the groups of friends I have, we think it'd be a LOT cooler to be something other than human. Something different, something new. Just because I post my opinions on an issue doesn't mean I'm trying to force everyone to think the same way. I apologize if my post seemed otherwise to you. As for the human heroes of legend- I'm pretty sure that nonhuman legendary characters like Coyote could kick a paltry human hero like Odysseus' ass any day.
14th-Oct-2003 06:33 pm (UTC) - Part 2

4.) Exactly my point. It's about having fun, it's about keeping players and the DM happy and having a good social experience. I'm not going to make things so difficult on the players that they die every encounter, but I'm not going to deny them something that I think they've earned simply because the rulebook said so. The books are guidelines, they say so right in the introduction. Like I said, I like a certain level of realism in my games, and I'm sure anyone can look around and see that real life does NOT have the same kind of balance that the D&D world does. If all a character does is sit around on his ass, then I don't feel they should be rewarded for anything they didn't work for or train in simply because they've achieved an imaginary number called a "new level".

5.) Often, the characters aren't overpowered- the players are creative. The particular gaming group I DM for are EXTREMELY creative- These people can find more creative uses for sticks and rocks and dirt than you could imagine. These are the same people that, when playing a self-insertion game under another DM, that DM made the setting unrealisticly plain (a forest with no rocks, no grass, no dirt, no plants, and making the character enter the world COMPLETELY NAKED because she *knew* that he was creative enough to be deadly with minimal equipment. It has *nothing* to do with my DMing abilities. Also, one of my players is a writer. He has a writer's mentality. So he develops his characters as he plays them, instead of trying to develop something all at once.

Yes, every character has it's kicks. But you know what? My group is a well behaved group that is responsible and reasonable and don't throw tantrums when they don't get their way. I never said that my methods would work for everyone, I simply proposed ideas that work for me, that might work for another responsible group such as mine.

And something else about this particular campaign, is that most of this game is STORY. They've had, what, a total of three encounters in over two weeks of story-gaming. So no, they're not having too many encounters or gaining too much XP. We follow the XP rules to the letter. And as a DM option, I give out experience for very good roleplaying. Another thing you have to understand is that when encounters DO happen, my monsters nearly always get shitty rolls. I don't know how the heck it happens, but the rolls are often so bad that I've resorting to use a "hit/miss" die instead of the standard d20 just to HIT something.

Being a rules-monger doesn't make the game any fun for us. Keeping track of encumbrance, walking speeds, technical things like that prove to be time consuming and too complicated to be fun in a normal game. The DMG itself says that if a rule doesn't work for you, change it to fit your group. And I've done just that. Just because it might be unbalanced for the standard group doesn't make it so for mine or perhaps a few others.

At any rate, thank you for the post, as it allowed me to clarify things that obviously I didn't make clear enough the first time around.
14th-Oct-2003 07:05 pm (UTC) - I Player
Ok NeoMatt

1) we have learned how to do it in game. in a way that makes the game work. and also builds the concept of the charachter. Mostly because we have minds and can use them. We do use the concept of speed time ususally when one charachter is having a plot point and the others are not involved We also use such time to go shopping for stuff our charachters need and preparing things for game and looking up stuff.
We also do not rape the system as it would make for unbelievable play and would diminish the charachters and thats why we play. so no We would not try to train for a week solid. I have a character now that has lost his lover Lost his home Lost everything and is trying desperatly to be stronger to at least rescue his lover. I had him train hard until collapse and then roleplayed 2 days of recovery from the extreme training. It's Called ROLE PLAYING not ROLL PLAYING as it is obvious that you are wont to do.

3.) This may be a fantasy game, but are you trying to tell me humans are lame? Humans are involved in every fantasy game. Because the tales of myth and legend all contain heroics from humans. Another thing, humans are not boring, unless you think perhaps that you are some kind of mythical creature irl (perhaps you are delusional, i do not know).

I do not know what Shit you have been reading But it obviously is not real Mythology or legend. Very little in the way of humans have ever been trully human Mostly half gods and demi gods and the like Or the gods themselves. As far as Delusional I would perhaps think that you are. As I have heard many of your posts (and am currently hearing them as i type) and you seem to believe you are better than everyone around you and seem to be suffering from not only Delusions of self granduer and more than a touch of megalomania

as far as Point 5 Hey here's and Idea How about CONSTRUCTIVE CRITISISM. Oh wait that probably beyond your godlike powers do to lack of skill points so you so obviously spent those on 54 ranks of assmunch

the real reason she has trouble is she has only beed doing it for a little while and is still getting the feel for the system. and then having to deal with creative people as players who know the system well. Basically she does not have any great confidence in her ability yet though she is a very good DM and shows great promise.

She si doing what any good DM does and fidgets witht the rules tile they suit her. You know that whole thing in the begining of the DMG that tells you the rules are guidlines and not set in stone as you seem to think they are. and to most of all be creative. No that does not mean do unto the rules like a cell block does to a child molester after dark.
16th-Oct-2003 10:29 pm (UTC)
The biggest problem I can see with the "realism" of no level caps on skills is that if you're putting +5 per skill per level, you reach +50, by tenth level.

This might not seem "uber-powerful' for "cheese-making", but at +50 you should NEVER fail a check for this skill, since 50 is a ridiculous DC for a skill-check and Natural 1 isn't auto-failure.

Again, for most skills this isn't a problem, but for some it is.
+50 to listen means invisibility is meaningless.
+50 to open lock means no lock is impenetrable.
+50 to spot means no secret door will go un-noticed.
+50 to search means nothing will go un-found.
+50 to heal means no dying character will ever bleed to death.

Do you have any idea how far a 20th level character with +100 to jump can leap?
Well, according to the 3.5 rules, they can leap over 100 feet and will be in the air for a number of rounds depending on their speed. Most characters will be flying through the air for around 20 seconds.

Still think it's realistic?
18th-Oct-2003 02:46 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, and if this +5 (total) to skills per level is the only way you gain skills, and not at level up, why would anyone want to play a Rogue?

A Rogue is based almost entirely on their excess of skill points and ability to put them in almost any skill (that, and I suppose sneak attack).
If rogues only get 5 skill points per level (intead of 8 + Int mod), along with everyone else (including fighters who should only be getting 2 + int mod), then Rogues are severely underpowered and not worth playing.

As much as I want to say, "more power to you, play how you want to play" I really feel that changing the rules in such an unbalancing way is going to have severe repurcussions for the game in the long run.

I would suggest that you stick with the normal number of skill points gained per level as the max for each different class. Making it 5 for all really tips the scale in favour of fighter-types and away from skilled types. As I say fighters would get on average 3 extra skill points and rogues 3 less (not taking into account the fact that a rogue is likely to have an int bonus).
You can still say that the rogue has to practice their skills to get them, but that they can get their 8+int skills per level while fighters can only get 2+int.

Personally, I don't think that the "sudden increase" in skills at level up is any more unrealistic than any of the other gains. If you want to spread out all the different level increase gains over the whole of the level you're going to snow yourself under with paperwork.

For instance, from 11th to 12th level a monk gets: +1 BAB, +1 to all saves, 4 + int mod skill points, abundant step, slow fall increases to 60ft, unarmed damage increases to 2d6, speed bonus increases to +40ft, a feat and an ability score increase.

Now that's a whole lot of stuff increasing very suddenly, so why only make one aspect of it "more realistic" by spreading it over the level? So, do you choose random times during the level to deal out each of the monk's new powers? Or perhaps when he's "practicing" his slow fall/abundant step/saving throws?

Seriously, I would leave the levelling up system the way it is, if only because it has such a fine equilibrium that it's too easy to unbalance it.
One house-rule I do like though, is asking the players to justify things like skill increases. Rather than saying that they can have an increase to tumbling when they practice it, you can say (at the time of levelling up) that if they haven't been practicing tumbling they cannot increase that skill. Some skills will be used, and therefore practiced, in the thick of combat, but this house-rule becomes all important when it comes to practicing skills like diplomacy or even sleight of hand.
18th-Oct-2003 06:29 am (UTC) - Yeah... No.
   1.) You are mistaken. It is never, under any circumstance, "Oh, I've reached a new level and now I'm instantly better at this skill." Read page 41 (3e) or 197 (3.5e) of the DMG on "Learning Skills and Feats". If you had, you'd know that it takes one week per rank gained for a skill, or two weeks for a feat. In addition, you may wish to require a professional trainer for the training of a feat, which costs 50gp per week. In the 3e book this is a variant, but it is an actual rule in the revised book. There is also a variant (in both books) that the character must train for 1d4 days to actually gain the level.
   2.A) The attack bonus makes no sense. At level 5 I have an additional +5 bonus to-hit with chosen weapon? That's ridiculously broken considering most players stick with one weapon (like a rapier for the critical threats, or a greatsword for the hulking damage). Did you even bother to think about monks, a class that only uses one weapon at higher levels has nothing to lose by training solely in one weapon and getting this huge +* bonus.
   2.B) The skill bonus I can't even fathom. Even if you are capping it, any level 1 expert can have a +9 (not including Int) modifier to a Craft skill and start forking out masterwork components by rolling at least an 11. Considering a weapon smith doesn't adventure at all and all he does is sit on his butt crafting weapons, at the point where he reached legendary status (11th level), he would have a +58 modifier!3.A) I speak strictly of the Greyhawk setting here, but more than half of the world's base race population is Human. Simply wiping them out would dramatically lower the population, unless you were to fill them with the other races. However doing that would imply that the breeding rate be dramatically increased, and the longevity of each race's lifespan be greatly reduced. Two of the most numerous races in the setting are Humans and Orcs, both have low life cycles and breed like rabbits.
   3.B) As for being "boring", your logic is greatly flawed. If everybody is tired of being the same so they strive to be something different, they are all the same in the end. Sounds like goth-logic to me. Most races don't really like Humans or don't relate to their fast-paced lives, especially Elves. Putting a mixed assortment of races in a party increases the diversity of the group and might raise racial tension (assuming your players roleplay their races correctly). Humans are renowned for their technology and especially their leadership, if your Elvish characters are displaying these types of traits then they aren't roleplaying (not to say Elves cant be leaders, but more Humans are natural born leaders).
   4.) I don't mean this as an insult, but your custom rules lead me to believe you've played this too short, not to long. Legal characters are just that, and can be handled legally. Got a human fighter with whirlwind attack at level 4? Give him a flying combatant and see how his feats help. Are your characters not playing the roles they choose with classes, skills, and feats? Use your right as a DM to say "no", don't use a custom rule to work around it.
   5.) You should encourage your players to invent themselves, anyway. You may be the DM, but telling a player flat out who he is and what he stands for is a bit too "spectator" for most players.
18th-Oct-2003 08:28 am (UTC) - d'oh!
That's what I get for not reading the DMG *thoroughly* >_< Thanks for pointing these things out.

I still hold the same opinion about humans, though- There are just some cultures that, as adaptive as humans are- they just can't share. Lillends and Modrons are two examples. Humans(and other standard races) just dont- and oftentimes, can't- have the type of mentality or worldview that other races have that would be so much fun to roleplay. If you choose to play something other than the standard races, you have a lot more varied possibilities. Characters of non-standard races allow for some of the most interesting and challenging role-playing (not roll-playing) out there. And most of our stories are based around the former. Each and every character I've had the pleasure of DMing for is very different and unique, with their own life story, goals, etc. The only common factor is that most of Akira's characters are out there to learn as much as they can in their lives, and most of Zyn's characters have very specific goals in mind.

Anyway, as long as I've been playing, I haven't been DMing all that long- and I, like many other beginning DMs, have a tendency to want to throw out or ignore rules that don't immediately make sense or that seem to be "overkill"... The point of this particular campaign (and the point of my original post) was to get input on my style, see how it works (or *doesn't* work), and bring to light issues I may have missed or dealt with incorrectly.

Again, thank you for your post, and for pointing out the flaws in a constructive and positive way. I will definately keep these things in mind (It will make for some inconsistency in the game, but my players will understand).
18th-Oct-2003 03:32 pm (UTC) - Re: d'oh!
   It is very easy to get carried away when making a custom rule, especially when you are somewhat unfamiliar with the rules. I started playing D&D when the 3e PHB came out, and right off the bat I was killing dragons because neither my DM or I realized that Dragons actually get a saving throw to resist when Clerics cast hold monster.
   It's best to make sure you read all of the variant rules, because some of the rules WotC makes are genuinely bull shit (such as automatic fire for d20 Modern). More often than not they have some pretty awesome variants for their own material (like the one for instant death by rolling a natural 20, another natural 20, and then scoring a hit).
   But hey no problem on the constructive criticism. Sorry if I sound a bit angsty, it was a late post and I was super tired.
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