In D&D many monsters (and some player characters) have a host of weirdo abilities and powers that aren’t easily classified. I refer to supernatural abilities such as dragon’s breath weapon, a ghost’s frightening presence, a manticore’s tail spikes or a medusa’s petrifying gaze.
In HD&D all of these abilities are attacks. The monster has to roll to hit a character’s defence to see if their power is successful. The dragon has to make an attack roll with his breath weapon against the Reflex Defence of the PCs. But what does he roll?
In HD&D all the attack rolls are derived from the skills system. A swing of a sword comes off the Heavy Blades skill. A magic missile comes off the Arcana skill. But what do you roll to attack with a breath weapon? There are three schools of thought.
1) We have a skill for every supernatural ability. Dragons (and Dragonborn) have the “Breath Weapon” skill, Manticores have the “Shoot Tail Spikes” skill and on on.
2) We have one skill that encompasses all these abilities, called Supernatural Attack. If a creature happens to have more than one supernatural attack, then both come off the same skill.
3) We don’t have a skill at all. All attack rolls with supernatural abilities are based on half the monster (or PC’s) level plus the relevent ability score modifier.
Personally, I would plump for option three. This is by far the simplest option. I think that we should avoid adding extra specialised skills into the system if we can avoid it.
Take the dragonborn for example. We might give Breath Weapon (or Supernatural Attack) to him as a bonus class skill, but we’re not going to give him any bonus skill points. The dragonborn has already spent a Talent to get access to dragon breath in the first place, but that Talent is useless to him until he spends his skill points. We’re effectly asking the player to pay for his breath weapon twice. I don’t think that’s fair.
The counter argument is not withour merit. There is precedence within HD&D for characters having to spend skill points to make use of their talents. It’s how the spellcasting and the combat systems work. Why should supernatural abilities get a free ride? Why shouldn’t a dragonborn have to use his resources to become proficient in his breath weapon?
I’m opening this up to the masses. What does everyone think? Please vote in the poll below and don’t forget to add comments if you have any!