Who is responsible for skills?
I am quite liking writing about the games I play, although I might not be waffling to the level of the great DMs I do feel like I am reflecting on the games I play and the rules which govern them and, in doing this, hopefully I am becoming a better DM. This week, I wanted to waffle on about skills. There are many skills in both the games I play, but who is actually responsible for providing opportunities for them to be put into action within the game? Well here I go with my views!
One of the most difficult decisions anyone ever has to make when creating characters I think, is which skills to take or invest percentile points in. Some skills are only available for certain classes, if you play a class based system, and it is possible that you find yourself choosing a class just for the skills that come along with it. Alternatively, with systems like Mythras, you get a whole load of Standard Skills, which everyone can do, and you find yourself thinking about professional skills which you want to invest both time and ‘points’ into. Which ever system you play, skills can actually make or break your character, allow it to excel in certain situations or fail dramatically in others. In both Shadowrun and Mythras, we created characters without much knowledge of the game, and frequently did not realise the importance of some the skills. A prize example of this is the endurance skill in Mythras. It was only when we started to actually engage with the rules in the context of playing that we started to understand how important it was to work on this. Of course, you didn’t have to put points into it, but that could have very tiring effects, as characters like Gully finds every time he has to resist a fatigue roll.
I feel like it is my responsibility as a player to inform the DM/GM which skills I want to use and try to engage with the world as my character would.
Once skills have been decided upon they need to be put into play and this is what I really would like to waffle about. Although there are some skills which it is very useful for the party to have, other skills are less important and provide peripheral abilities. These skills can be very wide ranging and yet often quite specialised. Within Mythras, even Lore skills can be specialised into certain aspects which can actually add more depth to the character. I like to keep a track on the skills which characters have (excluding combat skills) and semi-track which of these skills the players are utilising. This is when I was wondering who is actually responsible for the use of these skills. I try to make my encounters quite open when creating them. I try to avoid saying, the players will need this skill to get through this part of the encounter, instead I just present the encounter and let them sort it out. I find that this way, players do not find that they are just trying to guess how I want them to progress but are finding their own way through. But, because I do not plan specific skills into the encounters, I do find that some skills which players have invested time and points into are being left ‘unused’.
So who is responsible for the use of these skills? Should I as the DM/GM be keeping a track of the players skills and providing opportunities within the sessions for the players to use these skills or is it the responsibility of the players to examine and analyse situations and try to implement them? I do worry that if I challenged players about their lack of skill use whether they would reply that I, as the DM/GM, had not provided them with an opportunity to use the skills in the adventures. Because of the lack of restriction of the encounters and sessions, I do try and allow the players to interact via their skills even if I had not even thought about it. Sometimes they provide me with something they wish to do and I search for a skill for them to roll, unless it would be an automatic success. I feel this is important since I would not want to make a skill ‘worthless’ by allowing characters without this skill to interact without it. An example of this would be the ‘Boat’ skill in Mythras. As the party rowed back to the ship, noone was really skilled in boating so they actually took twice as long to get back to the ship, while someone who was proficient, might have made a much better attempt. I do delight in telling the party at various times that if they don’t have the ‘literacy’ skill hence they cannot read or write – which can be a great shame when they have to sign a contract! At the same time, if they do provide me with an action, do ask them whether they have a suitable skill they wish to use – for example – do you have a locksmith or similar skill? I do like it when players ask whether they can use a skill for something – e.g. Can I use my locale skill to see whether this plant is alien to this forest? This allows me to assign a difficulty to the task or even, and players are usually very accepting of this, say that this is not an appropriate skill at this time.
Waffle coming to an end soon – So what do you think? If I had the opportunity to play, I would be constantly looking at my list of skills to see if I can implement them in some way in every encounter. I feel like it is my responsibility as a player to inform the DM/GM which skills I want to use and try to engage with the world as my character would. Would you agree with me or do you think it is more of the DM/GM responsibility to create opportunities for your skills to be used? As always I would be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments below. It is really easy to sign up for an account so go on – have a go!
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So, I would just like to say – Have fun and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!