I’ve been building a thing for D&D and it’s been curious. Not only have I discovered that Proficiency is one of the words I can’t spell instinctively, but I have been thinking a lot about what I refer to as Proficient Resolution.
Now, the definition of Resolution I’m working with is not the wrapping up of things, but the amount of detail. In other words, How detailed are proficiencies? (Or how detailed SHOULD they be?)
A Surplus of Skills
This is not the first time I have struggled with this issue. Back, what, two years ago? I was messing around with Planet Mercenary, and more recently Cyberpunk 2020 and they have a similar design… flaw? I don’t really think I can call it a flaw, because it is not inherently a problem, it’s just… easier to see in…
Look. As much as game designers try, there are certain skills that are just plain better than others. In D&D, Perception and Athletics are used a lot, Medicine and Animal Handling are rarely used. If given the choice, the sensible player chooses one of those (WARNING: Assuming all players are sensible leads to trouble!!)
So, in Cyberpunk and PM, you maxed Dodge/Defense, your 1 weapon skill, and Perception/Awareness, and Research. That let you do 98% of the things with max efficiency and the rest of your points can do whatever.
Matt Aside: “Oh, yeah, I forgot I could do these again. There may be some validity in this being a GM concern as opposed to a game design concern. Planet Mercenary, for example, has it’s Sciences broken out into a lot of different sub-skills. If you require the specific sciences, instead of allowing a more general roll, that makes those specifics skills better and better. It doesn’t fix EVERYTHING about it, but if the game is supposed to be played like that, it might make more sense. Idk, I haven’t played a game with divisions like that for a bit.”
Players experienced at my table know that Persuasion and Investigation join Athletics and Perception for my most requested skills. Even if they aren’t going to be good at the skill, spending their precious proficiency slot to boost it a little is going to be more helpful than being really good at a skill I never call for.
The more useful a skill, the more it comes up, the more valuable it is to take compared to others.
While you were in school, I studied the blade
Since what I’m working on is a D&D thing, I think the skills are mostly okay (It needs an Engineering skill in it’s core), my issue is converting weapon proficiencies to a more modern framework.
In 5e, there are a total of 4 weapon categories, and 2 of them require no training. SO really, Martial melee and ranged is the only real distinction and classes tend to give it out as just “You are proficient in Martial weapons.”
I’m trying to build a more point-buy system of sorts for a D&D variation, and I’m not sure how I want to do it. How close should I zoom in? Let’s look at the levels.
- A Specific Longbow. This is too specific, as it says in its name. Knowing how to wield your Father’s Longbow in combat is cool, but only knowing how to use your father’s bow is not.
- Longbows Subset. I could see +1 Longbows or Elvish Longbows requiring a proficiency, but, again, this is a bit too specific for useful play.
- Longbows. This is as zoomed in as I could see it getting. You’ve focused on a specific type. With this Proficiency, you can’t use Shortbows.
- Drawn Bows. A stupid name, but you can use Long or Shortbows, but not any crossbow.
- Bows. You can use any type of bow, cross or not.
- “Hurled”. Spycraft uses this definition for anything that isn’t self propelling, so bows and arrows of all kinds, throwing knives, and grenades. No firearms, though.
- Ranged Weapons. This is anything that is a thing that does things at distance.
- Weapons. This is anything that is a weapon. Might exclude unarmed or improvised.
- Attacks. This is as broad as it is possible to get and still be a system.
As far as I can see, those are all the levels of magnification. Some are, well, ridiculous, and some are reasonable enough. I think a setting of 3-7 is probably what makes sense for an RPG.
D&D is rocking somewhere between a 6.5 to a 7.5, depending on how you define things. Spycraft lists a longbow as “Exotic Hurled”, so like a 5.5 on the Resolution. Cyberpunk sees them as “Exotic”, which may be about a 7? I’m regretting using this as a scale.
Longbows only get lumped into Exotic because there are some many other ranged weapons in those systems. Cyberpunk and Spycraft have specific skills/proficiencies for pistols, submachineguns, and shotguns.
This D&D tweak idea is to allow me to have games of Cyberpunk and Spycraft in 5e, so I think I’m going to have to create my own individual definitions of things.
The difference between a stick, a sword, and a zweihander
Universal systems are tough, because in their creation, they have to keep a pair of questions in mind for any given thought: “What if X was a thing?” and “What if X wasn’t a thing?”
CP2020 and SC2.0 both assume that bows, while a thing, are not the main thing, so regulate them to the back, like a discount bargain shelf. But I want to assume they are a thing.
One of my favorites elements of game design from ANY RPG comes from the Cubicle 7 Doctor Who, when determine how much damage any melee weapon across time or space could deal in a simple equation. Was it sharp? Was it heavy? Was it inherently dangerous? For each of those questions that resulted in a yes, the weapons has a +2 to damage.
So let me pull up a spreadsheet and see what I can derive from the list
… Okay, here’s what I learned:
I know very little about guns.
That was the main thing I learned. I have no idea which guns out of the hundreds listed in the Spycraft book make sense to be the test cases. I don’t play First Person shooters, I don’t shoot guns myself, and, while I occasionally like books that have guns, they mention the name once and then refer to it in different ways, so I my familiarity with the weapon remains passing. I also discovered that a couple of guns I thought were made up for some shows were real things.
Interestingly, for the purposes of how they function in an TTRPG, most assault rifles are probably better described as being machine guns rather than rifles. While they have the technical quality of being a rifle, they are more about getting metal downrange faster, rather than super accurate over a long, long distance.
How crazy do we want to get with our simulation here? (Answer, not very) We could spend pages and pages discussing how to aim and brace and full auto and stuff. But we’re not going to do that. Some weapons will have a descriptor that let them make a semi-auto burst on an attack. Firearms can also make an attack as a BA. Let the lead fly.
But trying to group things is too much effort for me.
(Very rarely do I get to write that I have concluded something. It’s kind of exhilarating.)
While 5e has a resolution around 7, I think I’m going to have Naked D&D rock a resolution 3. For now, at least. It’s possible that this may change in the future with play testing, but I think it’ll be robust enough of a system to work.
Also, I think it may be what 5e is built on. The big broad proficiencies are provided by the classes. If you ignore classes, you’ll see that there are some races that provide proficiencies in tools and weapons, and they work basically at a level 3.
Anyway, I foisted the exact details onto the GM, and can now proudly say that I have my first Version of Naked D&D ready (Download the PDF Here!)
Stay tuned for future updates, and games/setting using these rules as their core. (For character creation. Game