Friday, July 1, 2016

On the Ball

Progress on D&D projects, for me, is all about chipping away here and there. Flit over to the price table and do some calculations; alight upon the old rulebooks and rewrite a few spells in my own wording and with clarifications I deem necesary; review my "half-finished idea" folder and see whether any new thoughts are keen to join some old ones.

One of the things I'm working on is my own version of the knowledge skill (or "sage" skill) system which Alexis has invented for his game. In short, sage skills are a way of quantifying knowledge about the game world and giving it over to the players as CERTAINTIES, things which they are guaranteed to know and which they can act on.

Why? Because it expands the range of playstyles players can use. Because it suggests new avenues of action, new reasons to explore, newly-useable items or novel purposes for ones that have become old hat. Things opening up and unlocking. Giving the players certain areas of guaranteed knowledge also pins down what the game world is like: if your druid knows X and Y about mushrooms, then he knows it, full stop, and it's the truth. This is part of the process by which the human world, with its enormous complexity, is broken down into appropriately-sized chunks and reified as part of the grand edifice that is D&D.

I want to present here some thoughts on the assassin and thief class, since Alexis hasn't touched on those yet (he's been focused on the cleric and druid, with occasional forays into other classes.)

Here are some of the ideas in my file:

First off, there are the classic thief skills, plus the assassin's poisoning and disguising abilities. I don't intend to touch the thief skills since in my game they're mostly not exclusively "thief" skills anymore -- it's just that the thief gets bonuses on them. The exceptions are Open Locks and Pick Pockets, which are pretty much thief- and assassin-only (save a lucky result on the background* generator.)

Poisoning, however, could be lifted out and made into its own skill tree, or perhaps folded into Alchemy. Either way the assassin would get to start with a free talent in this area, giving the ability to use and recognize poisons but not yet make them.

Disguise could conceivably also be made one of the early choices in a more general Subterfuge discipline. This could include things like: throwing one's voice; imitating a specific kind of artisan or religious authority;  fooling lie detection (even spells? I dunno); and telling if someone is telling the truth, lying, or just plain IGNORANT (i.e. is incapable of truth or lying because they don't know the matter themself.)

Well then, on to the wholly-new stuff. I think that the thief is the class focused on "following the money," while the assassin is focused on knowing how to dispose of people by learning everything there is about them. This suggests both types of character would have abilities related to reconnaissance.

  • Know affiliation: figure out what local factions or groups someone is affiliated with by studying how they treat and react to others. If they don't have any loyalties, perhaps they can be swayed to yours ...
  • Telling if someone is keeping a secret or hiding information.
  • Guessing someone's emotions from subtle cues, without needing any overt display.
  • Predicting someone's reaction to seeing the party, or to seeing one of the members -- in effect, getting to read the reaction die in advance, and try to compensate for it. Perhaps I would also have to include a single suggestion for something to improve or alter -- or offer as a gift, bringing me to:
  • Guess gift. You want to know the right amount to give the watchman to pay him off? You need to know just what type of wine the mayor likes? Got somebody to poison and don't know what food they're gonna go for at the reception after the lecture? Ask an assassin.
  • Eavesdropping: quite useful. Would have to do better than the old Hear Noise rules for this, though.
  • Intuit room purpose: after a period of observation, figure out what a room is used for, based on who goes in and out, what they're carrying/using, what sounds you hear, and so on. Anyone else might be able to conjecture, but the assassin/thief will know FOR SURE. If you haven't got one in the party, time to hire one ... 
  • Intuit room layout: lets you know beforehand where guards, (potted plants, walkways, entrances and exits ...) ought to be placed in a room which you've studied with Intuit Room Purpose. A bit videogamey? Maybe. But I think it could be cool. It's not as if you could use it unlimited times, or whenever you want.

Some of these lend themselves more to the assassin than to both, since I've been thinking mainly about that class. Here's one or two thiefy things:

  • Geographic knowledge about where things come from. Get boots on the ground and spend a week investigating, then ask a certain number of questions along the lines of: what's the biggest iron-mining town in this country? What's the best place to go within 100 miles to sell some bolts of linen? My trade system will let me judge those things pretty easily. And, once I've upgraded my map program, I might even be able to print off a local map with color-coding for item production. Wouldn't that be cool? Imagine the thief swaggering up to the others: "I've done some research and if we want to get rid of this
  • Fixer: you've made a contact in the local black market who can make problems go away, guaranteed. Just gotta be able to pay his price -- but the first one's free. Whatcha gonna call him in on? This is a good one because when confronted with a precious expendable resource, players will usually only use it up grudgingly.
  • Who's who around here? Spend time investigating and you'll find out who's in charge of the churches, the politics, the manors, the guilds. Spend even more time, and you'll start gaining info on who's REALLY behind this, that, and the other thing. (This one would be good for the assassin, too.)
That's all I've got for now.

* which I'll post about soon.

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