- Back to Home »
- A Closer Look
Quick side tangent: has anyone tried taking a page from Gamma World, giving D&D characters 2-3 set ability scores and rolling the rest? For example, for a heavy blade fighter might have a Strength of 18 and Dexterity of 16--before bonuses--and rolling the others. This could create some odd results, with a fighter or paladin having a really high Intelligence (and thereby making them better suited for some multiclassing), but also have more than one below average ability score. Anyway, just some food for thought.
In the comments section of this post, Gerald asks that I go back and post something in regards to how I might "develop and improve" the system which currently exists. While I cannot say for certainty that I can improve it (probably not), I will try to explain in better detail why I do not like Cook's concept, and what I might do differently to make it better in my opinion. First, let us compare how Passive Perception works now, and how Cook's concept changes it.
Currently if a player wants to try and notice something, she makes a Perception check, and if the result meets or beats the DC, she notices it. Characters automatically notice stuff that their Passive Perception meets or beats.
Cook's pitch as, I understand it, works as follows:
The DM assigns a rank to something like, say, a hidden passage, and the rank to find it is 3. If a player's rank is higher than 3, they notice it automatically. If it is 3, then they have to roll to see if they can find it. If it is less than 3 then they cannot normally find it unless they interact with the object. Where I am a little fuzzy on the details is whether a player with a Perception rank of 2 can get away with specifying that they want to check the statue for hidden passages, thereby lowering the rank to a 2 (and allowing the a roll), or if they need to describe how they are interacting with it; pushing, checking for scratches or seams, wiggling the teeth, etc.
As I said before, the main difference is that Cook essentially gives the characters a bonus for describing how they interact or search something, though his theory is that it will encourage players to interact with stuff rather than just say, "I'm looking for hidden passages," and making a roll.
However it is really just another form of system mastery, which given his track record is not surprising to me. Players are going to very logically compile a routine that they will go through whenever they encounter a statue, door, look for a hidden passage, etc. From a narrative point it makes perfect sense: a party of professional grave robbers is going to have a routine that they will go through, so it becomes less interacting with the environment so much as taking time to go through a list of procedures. And when the players start a new campaign, what then? Do you allow the players to just toss the list at you again, or do you make them pretend to not know what to do, like how some DMs try and force players to not act on knowledge for classic monsters like trolls, mind flayers, beholders, and the like?
Talk of fleeting system master aside, Cook's idea of "Zorking" the terrain can work in the current system by simply adding guidelines for giving characters a bonus on their skill checks for describing their actions and hitting the right notes; there is no need to restructure the rules to change from a numerical bonus--which has the added benefit of granularity--to ranks. Basically the only meaningful thing his concept adds is the possibility that players might go into more detail when making a skill check.
So getting around to what Gerald asked me to do in the first place, what would I do were I in charge of it (or at least trying to pitch ideas at WotC)? Currently I do not feel that the system needs changing or improvement. It does what it is supposed to do, does it well, and follows the basic concept from other games I have seen.
I guess if I had to think of something I would give characters a bonus for having certain backgrounds or training in relevant skills? For example, characters trained in Dungeoneering might get a bonus on noticing secret doors in structures, while characters with Nature might get a bonus on Heal checks in the wilderness. Makes sense and might help avoid skill-spamming, where all the characters just try using Aid Another without care for what the bonus or penalty is--though to avoid this I always tell my players that if they try Aid Another and it fails, that they instead impose a -2 penalty.