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Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-17
We added an optional rule in Modern Supplement #1 to make class skills optional. Now that I am working on Modern20 Revised, I am seriously thinking about getting rid of class skills altogether. Does anybody like class skills?

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24 Comments
Posted by Michael Lafferty on 2008-08-17 22:41:40
Not a fan of them myself. I think they make sense (for me) with occupation specific classes (thief, assassin, paladin, mage) and less so with the more abtract classes that modern open-ended d20 games have.

I think they slow down character creation without really adding anything.

Just my 2 cents
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-18 07:02:12
I like them. There are some classes that focus on certain things then on others. There is some overlap, which is why some skills show up for more than one class.

What I didn't care for was exclusive class skills.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-18 09:02:55
Yes, I know what you mean. What were the exclusive skills in D&D, was it Scry and Use Magic Item?

I actually liked Scry more, it was Wizards dipping its toe into magic and skills interacting and then they LEAPED out of that pool ASAP.
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-18 09:44:58
I think 3e had Animal Empathy as an exclusive skill as well.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-18 10:26:18
Oh yeah. Very strange idea.
Posted by Colm Thompson on 2008-08-18 20:56:15
Don't like them. Not elegent. One option that I experimented with was this: Cross-class skills work like class skills do now. Class skills are granted a bonus equal to half the associated class level. This requires changes in other ares, such as reducing overall skill points and possibly reducing the number of class skills availible to a class. This produces roughly the same effect, but considerably reduces complexity. However, depending on how it's handled, it reduces player choice, can discourage multiclassing and makes overlapping skills dominant.
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-19 08:26:06
I can understand your argument about complexity. Removing class skills would streamline advancement. However, I like some complexity in my character advancement. I think it reasonable to say for a movie star to pay more if they want to learn to survive in the outdoors then, say, a trapper.
Posted by Chris Davis on 2008-08-19 11:42:03
I've always been a fan of skill systems that progress based on character actions. That's how it worked in Call of Cthulhu (d100 version). When you used a skill, it had a chance of increasing. It was very jarring when I played Call of Cthulhu d20 to use class skills. The game lost something in the translation in that regard. Instead of my character's skills being forged by actually game play, it was predetermined at character creation. I could never really branch out unless I wanted to pay the extra cost.
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-19 12:06:41
One of the Elder Scroll games did something like that as well. I remember my character fell of the top of a 2nd story roof (I wasn't paying attention) and I was notified that my acrobatics skill went up.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-19 13:07:06
Yeah I think all the Elder Scrolls games were like that. Either you learned by doing, or you could pay cold hard cash for training.

I think the problem with Modern20 having class skills, is that the classes aren't really archetypes, they're party roles.

For instance, I don't have a Sniper class. You can try to make a Sniper anyway you want.

Ultra-Accurate? You might go Powerhouse.

Ultra-Stealthy? Speedfreak.

Really good at spotting the enemy? Empath.

It's because of that more than anything I frequently find myself with a concept and a class in mind, and not having the class skills to do it.
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-21 05:38:50
But isn't a party role an archetype? In Modern20, you say "Powerhouse characters have the best Base Attack Bonus...." So, this class' archetype is a fighter. That's why I think class skills make sense because the classes are fulfilling a specific role and, as such, would have better access to specific skills. Occupations and Backgrounds grant skills as well, so you can diversify that way.
Posted by Rich Spainhour on 2008-08-21 07:26:07
I'm OK with the general concept of Class Skills. It makes sense that naturally strong people, e.g. Powerhouses, have a natural aptitude in skills that depend on physical power (reality is more complicated than that, but this is an adventure game, not a human performance dissertation). What I am NOT OK with is the current implementation...it makes statting up high-level NPCs a huge pain. I love, LOVE, L.O.V.E. the approach taken in the Beta of the new Pathfinder RPG: "In addition, each class has a number of favored skills, called class skills. Your character is most proficient in these skills, as they represent part of his professional training and constant practice. You gain a +3 bonus on all class skills that you put
ranks into. If you have more than one class and both grant you a class skill bonus, these bonuses do not stack." Also, no x4 Skill Points at 1st level. Those two rules in combination keep the power level of a given character the same, get you your cool specialization crunch, AND make creating high-level characters a snap. And, Chuck, they are 100% OGL (hint, hint).
Posted by Michael Lafferty on 2008-08-21 13:06:41
FWIW - well -we already touched on some Pathfinder OGL material in the Channel Energy abilities in Soldiers and Spellfighters20
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-21 13:12:32
To Paul: Three of the Modern20 classes are "fighters" (Powerhouse, Speedfreak and Tank) and three are skill-based. I don't really think "fighter" is an archetype anyway, which is why it's the catch-all warrior category in D&D. A fighter is the warrior who doesnt fit any of the other archetypes.

In Modern20, a warrior could be a hunter, a martial artist, a gangbanger, a special operator, etc etc.

Part of the problem I have with class skills is that, even as the creator of the system, I frequently found myself coming up with legitimate character concepts that didn't fit because of the skills.

For instance, what about a commando who specializes in the quiet kill, taking out enemies with a single knife stroke? That sounds like a Powerhouse to me, using his core ability and feats, along with the Sneak Attack general feat.

That concept seems pure Powerhouse to me, except for the class skills.

Also, what about the Mob Boss who's a Tank? That's a legitimate concept, it's how I would stat Kingpin from Marvel. But again, class skills stand in the way of that concept.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-21 13:16:50
To Rich: I agree that it makes sense in theory, but looking at what the skills in Modern20 do, I was frequently wanting skills for legitimate concepts that weren't on the class list.

For example, what about a Brainiac with a high Athletics skill? Give that Athletics is climbing, swimming and (in M20 Revised) Parachuting and Rappelling, not having that skill makes Brainiac Special Operators right out.

Given that I also happen to think most Green Berets would *be* Brainiacs, along with guys like MacGuyver or Michael Westin, this really rubbed me the wrong way.
Posted by Chris Davis on 2008-08-21 13:20:33
I haven't seen pathfinder (but there was a lot of buzz at gencon about it), but I like like the idea of a bonus for class skills opposed to a negative.

Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-21 13:27:03
Well, what we have right now, is no class skills at all, and Occupations grant phantom ranks.

That was the alternate system I proposed in Modern20 Supplement 1 and have been using in my home game for a couple months now, and my players really seem to like it.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-21 13:27:36
Well, what we have in Modern20 Revised right now (which isn't out yet), is no class skills at all, and Occupations grant phantom ranks.

That was the alternate system I proposed in Modern20 Supplement 1 and have been using in my home game for a couple months now, and my players really seem to like it.
Posted by Paul King on 2008-08-21 14:38:16
Why phantom ranks? Why not have an "Occupation Bonus"? Or did you want ranks because of prereqs?
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-21 15:37:38
In Modern20 Ranks are often more important than a bonus.

For example, 4 ranks in Unarmed means your base damage is 1d4. You also get a +4 bonus on Unarmed checks to grapple, trip and disarm.

A +2 bonus would make you better at that those last three, but 2 phantom ranks would also up your HTH danage to 1d6.
Posted by Rich Spainhour on 2008-08-21 19:24:03
So why "phantom" ranks? How do phantom ranks differ from "corporeal" ranks in any way other than letting you bust the Level+3 cap? Why not use bonus ranks (i.e. if you take Occupation X, you get 2 ranks in Skills Y & Z)?
Posted by Charles Rice on 2008-08-22 02:38:37
Well, I call them Phantom Ranks because they can go away (change really) when you change occupations.

If you go from one occupation to the next, you'll lose your phantom ranks in your old occupation and gain them in your new occupation.

Note that this also makes the Moonlighting feat better, since it now gives you phantom ranks in an extra three skills.
Posted by Rich Spainhour on 2008-08-22 03:09:43
Got it. That's actually very cool. Just make sure it is explained exactly that way in the revision...I didn't catch that ramification in the Dispatch alternate rule write-up.
Posted by Jerry Blakemore on 2008-08-23 11:54:46
Okay. I'm glad I came by and read this again. Some how I had it in my head that occupations were going away. Now I got it done. Class skills will not be missed. Love the occupations as it makes sense and gives the characters some flavor. The phantom skills will be a nice add too.