Design Diary 2

Starting at the Beginning

That's always the best place to begin, isn't it? For me, it was with the skill system. Like I said in the last entry, I got bored and started messing with the skills; 3.5 was on its way out, WotC wasn't going to put out any more changes to the system, so I was assured that any changes I made wouldn't be overridden (not that they messed with skills much anyway, but still).

So I went down through the list. Several sets of skills cried out for combination - Hide and Move Silently, Listen and Spot, Disable Device and Open Lock. A couple others were candidates for getting dropped - Forgery and Use Rope chief among them (honestly - does anyone ever take ranks in those skills?). I'd already revised several skills - Craft, the speech skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate, which now work off the same ruleset), reading and writing, and Spot. These were the ones that received the largest amount of change; most of the rest (the ones that weren't combined) received small changes, mostly added tasks stolen from the epic rules.

Also of note: synergy bonuses are gone. They're a part of the system that's best left to DM adjudication, in my opinion, and a real PITA when it comes to designing NPCs, because they're so easy to forget. Instead, I'm considering an idea I heard about - synergy bonuses are simply another use of the "aid another" action, where you aid yourself. If, for example, you wanted to make a Gather Information check, you could make a DC 10 Diplomacy check to give yourself a +2 bonus. It's kind of strange, but you can use Diplomacy (sweet-talking) in the course of gathering information. Or, if you're the big, strong, brutal type, you could go the intimidation route; either way, it's a much easier way to handle things.

Oh yeah - I came up with a way to eliminate cross-class skills, that bugaboo of the d20 system. Yes, It was my idea first - I came up with it about a week and a half before it appeared in Paizo's Alpha 2 release. I'm actually happy they thought of it too, because I feel vindicated - if it's good enough for Paizo, it's good enough for me.

After making up the list of skills and proposed changes, it was simply a matter of revising everything to fit the new system and incorporating some of the epic usages so that the DCs would scale higher. For example, Ride has several good epic usages - stand on mount (DC 30), unconscious control (DC 40), and attack from cover (DC 50). The first one is easily achievable at non-epic levels, and the second could be with a good roll and a dedicated rider. The third is probably the purview of an epic PC, but so what?

That leads me to my next point: whether or not groups want to play epic, the system should support it, from the ground up. A lot of the problems at epic levels are introduced at lower levels - immunities, large numbers of attacks, too many bonus types stacking with each other, spells that are more powerful than anything you could make at epic (wish, disjunction), etc. A large part of this is that the epic system is just poorly designed, "D&D turned to 11" - bigger monsters, bigger bonuses, magic items that are simply extensions of existing ones. Upper Krust has dealt (and is still dealing) with some of these problems, but he's building off the existing system and is doing strictly epic stuff (really high epic, to boot). I, on the other hand, am concentrating on pre- and low-epic - up to around 40th level, so we complement each other well, especially since I'll be borrowing a lot of his rules for monster creation and the CR/EL system.

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