During the many house rule expansions over the years I have changed the list of skills to accomodate the Iourn campaign setting. I’m quite attached to all these rules, but I know that now might be the time to let go of at least a few of them. Skill descriptions are found on pages 87-109 of the Core Rules (2009) and also on the Pathfinder PRD.
I’m going to assume that the mechanics of how each individual skill works will remain entirely unchanged. What I’m therefore going to do is take each of my changes to the skill list one step at a time and try and justify these changes to you, and say whether I recommend that we keep the house rule or dispense with it.
Alchemy (Int): This skill has always existed in Pathfinder as Profession (Alchemy). By removing it from the Profession skill and turning it into a skill of its own – as was the case in version 3.0 – I restricted its use to only certain classes. I’m not altogether sure what the point of making this change was in hindsight. The skill remains unchanged so I say we stick to the rules as written and keep this as Profession (Alchemy).
Athletics (Str or Con): This is a devisive one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t want to keep it. I do want to keep it, however, as it fills a gap that the skills system currently has. In Pathfinder there is no Jump skill as there was in version 3.5. The ability of Jump was folded into Acrobatics. I can see the logic when applied to tumbling, but not when it comes to the high jump and the long jump. That’s a different discipline and a different skills set. So in the house rules I took jumping out of Acrobatics and put it into Athletics.
But Athletics is far more just jumping, and this is (I think) the strength of the skill. You can use Athletics for any feat of strength or endurance that normally would call for an ability check in the game. Depending on the type of check it might be appropriate to use Strength or Constitution as the relevent ability score modifier. So endurance running, sprinting, holding your breath underwater, bending bars, lifting gates, kicking down doors – all of these things would use the Athletics skill. Characters would actually have the ability to get better at this sort of thing as they gained levels. I would strongly recommend holding onto athletics.
Autohypnosis (Wis): Originally published in the Psionics Handbook (2001), it was updated for Pathfinder in Psionics Unleashed (2010). Although not in the Core Rules I see no reason why this skill cannot stand as it is. Plus Raza has ranks in this, so we need to hang onto it.
Control Shape (Wis): Introduced in the third edition Monster Manual, this skill helps lycanthropes resist their supernatural urges. I think this skill is a bit too specialised and, like Concentration, should probably be treated as a level check in the Pathfinder game. This is a skill that’s never been in the official Pathfinder rules so I say that we let this one die.
Diplomacy (Cha): Under the Pathfinder rules the mechanics of the third edition Gather Information skill was folding into Diplomacy. I didn’t agree with this and took that functionality out of Diplomacy to create a new skill called Streetwise. More on that below.
Intimiate (Cha or Str): No change here except to rule that you can use your Strength instead of your Charisma in the Intimidate skill if you want. Makes far more sense. We want big burly characters to by physically intimidating right?
Knowledge (Int): Okay, this is the big one. Including Knowledge (Psionics) from Psionics Unleashed, there are eleven Knowledge skills in the Pathfinder game. Under the houserules there are thirteen. Some skills have been removed, and some have been added. Here’s a summary, so you can see exactly what has changed.
I’ve elimated the knowledges for The Planes and Dungeoneering, because I think they are a bit too broad. Instead we have knowledge skills for each of the general creature/environment types in the game: Aberrant, Ancients (aka Outsiders), Draconic, Elementals, Fey, Nature, and Undead. Those knowledge skills not only cover knowledge of the creature types, but also knowledge of the environments including the planes in which they live. So if you want to know about the Far Realm you’d make a Knowledge (Aberrant) roll. If you’re in a natural cave formation on the prime material plane then it would be Knowledge (Nature) you would require to survive. Those areas of knowledge are connected, so it makes sense to hang them together. This way a knowledge of the undead is no longer dependent on knowing the Religion skill, which never made much sense to me anyway.
In other changes: I’ve folded Knowledge (Psionics) into Knowledge (Arcana), and Knowledge (Local) has also been removed from the game. It’s been folded into the new Streetwise skill. See below.
Linguistics (Int): A character would choose to learn either a spoken tongue or a written script each time he gained a rank in Linguistics. This change is tied up with the rules for languages, which I discuss separately.
Lucid Dreaming (Wis): Introduced in the Manual of the Planes (2001), I’ve used this skill quite a lot in the Iourn campaign. For the sake of narrative integrity, it has to remain. I think the text we currently have of the skill works well in the context we’ve used it in so far. But I will revisit it to make sure that it properly fits with the Pathfinder rules.
Streetwise (Cha): This is a new skill that folds in the old Gather Information skill (that currently sits under the Diplomacy skill) in Pathfinder, and the Knowledge (Local) skill. So it’s a skill that let’s you know what’s going on and who the movers and shakers are in your community, as well as knowing who to talk to in order to find out information. It works for me.
The Three Tests
I’ve done a lot of work with the skill system over the years, and I’m probably more invested in this than any other part of the game. There are more house rules that I’d like to retain here than elsewhere in the system. Which is not to say that everything is not up for debate. Remember that there are companion rules that go part and parcel with the skill list. All classes have extra skill points because I’ve introduced more skills into the game. The language rules are affected by the way the Linguistics skill works. Changing something here, has a knock-on effect across other house rules in the game.
As we’ve seen in 4e a lack of skills can significantly hurt the narrative integrity of the game. But even if adopted the Pathfinder rules system whole cloth… it’s not going to make a great deal of difference.
Games without Miniatures
Any skill that allows some form of movement has the potential to fall foul of the tactical combat rules. Most seriously, the Acrobatics skill allows you to “move through a threatened square without provoking an attack of opportunity from an enemy”. That would have to be addressed, although I think it makes more sense to talk about with Attacks of Opportunity.
The house rules I’m working for Attacks of Opportunity don’t allow characters to “threaten” the area around them in quite the same way. Therefore Acrobatics is probably going to be used as means to jump over foes you are actually blocking your path. The enemies are standing so close together trying to go trough them would be an Overrun attempt. Or you could use Acrobatics to close on a foe with Reach, withour provoking an attack of opportunity.
I’d appreciate any additional views on this.
Well, my preferences are pretty strong on this. I’d like to excise Control Shape from the house rules and rename the Alchemy spell as Profession (Alchemy) but otherwise leave the houserules unchanged. I think that the Athletics and Streetwise skills add more to the game than they detract, and I’m happier with the default list of Knowledge skills in the house rules than the written rules.
You may feel differently, which is fine. If there’s sufficient opposition to retaining these house rules then we can swap to the written rules entirely.