My Insight into Skills

2009 July 6
by Stupid Ranger

This past weekend, in the flurry of getting things settled for our cross-country trip back to Illinois, there were a few moments that helped settle into my mind some of the finer distinctions of Skills.

In 3.5, we had the Listen, Spot and Search skills as the observation-based skills.  But on Friday night, I actually saw these skills in action as Dante & I were visiting with some friends.  The kids made a point to show us their rooms, including their books.  Dante rolled pretty well on his Spot check, noticing what books were on the bookshelf.

Shortly after that, I saw the Listen Skill in action.  The kids hovered on the periphery of the adults’ conversation, adding in little bits and pieces.  Dante made a very low roll on his Listen check, and he didn’t really “listen” to anything that the kids said although he made appropriate responses at the time.

The final result of these skill checks came to light on Saturday morning as we were driving.  He mentioned that it might be nice to get the kids a little something as they are helping to take care of our dog, Teddy.  He suggested a couple of books that would fit nicely on the bookshelf, but he missed some of the verbal clues that gave me ideas of other small gifts we might give them.

This is really where the insight came to me: a low roll on one of these skills might not necessarily mean that you didn’t see or hear the subject of the check; maybe you just don’t really understand how it might be significant.  A low Spot check may mean that you see a bird in the sky, a higher check may mean that you recognize it, and a really good check may mean that you know it will lead you to safe water.

I have experienced this kind of description a couple of times in my D&D days, but it does really add something to the game play.  The places where I’ve really missed this level of detail are usually in modules or other dungeon-crawl situations, where we’re just there to hack-and-slash our way through the baddies, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a valid place to include these little “flavor text” descriptions.

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