Thursday, February 25, 2010

How are you using skill checks?

Hoegbo's Demon's Melody promises

"-skill checks galore , finally you can use perform to get away from those pesky guards. and much more. "

I've done a lot of integration of skill checks as well. So here are some examples to give people ideas and stir conversation. I'll skip over the "traditional" skills like Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate since there are plenty examples of those in the official campaigns, how you could use those is pretty well defined.

Appraise: I use this regularly to allow the player to haggle the price of doing a quest. Failure means the questgiver will only offer a lower price than they would otherwise.

Concentration: I used this in a few places in combination with Dex checks for things like forgery, since the player must both remain focused and have a steady hand to produce a good forgery. Anytime the player has to do something while potentially distracted.

Craft x: I assume crafting skills grant knowledge of that area, whether weapons, armor, etc. Sometimes a player might be able to complement an npc on a particularly fancy sword or armor, gaining favor. Other times they can talk about the npc's equipment as a distraction. I've used it in murder investigations as well, when the murder weapon was supposedly one type of weapon, but during examination of the body a player with craft weapons will recognize that the damage couldn't have been that weapon type, it must have been a different type (aha! a clue!).

Craft alchemy: I've used this to allow a player to recognize substances an npc might be carrying. In my released module, a thief can use it in conversation to identify that a guard is carrying a drug, and blackmail them. I've also used it occaisionally to allow the player to concoct on the spot poisons (the player doesn't have any poison inventory, but they are allowed to use one anyway).

Disable device: The player is knowledgable about mechanical items, much like a tinkerer. It makes sense, a player skilled in disabling traps would have had to study their mechanical workings. In one spot the player is presented with a puzzle testing knowledge of hunting, disable device allows them to identify barely worn grooves in the puzzle, allowing them to work the puzzle properly without hunting knowledge.

Heal: Examples are covered pretty well in official content. I've used it to include medical knowledge. I've also used it as a proxy for torture (effectively harm), since the player would know what would cause pain. You might also use it to identify what the murder weapon was based on the wounds on the victim.

Hide: Not only hide yourself, but hide things on yourself, in case those pesky guards want to pat you down looking for that gem you stole. Hide can also function as a proxy for disguise (hide identity).

Listen: It's the sense motive skill. You are adept at picking up subtle clues in conversation. At high skill levels you could be a veritable lie detector, picking up on stress in the speaker's voice. Sometimes I use it in a trigger near baddies to give a popup giving a clue that a baddie is nearby and what kind of baddie.

Lore: The general knowledge skill, includes heraldry. You may use lore to recognize the badge on an npc's clothing as representing their membership in an organization. The player may also gain extra insight into motives of npc's based on their organizational membership.

Move silently: The npc is unaware of the player, whether distracted with something else, facing the wrong direction, or otherwise occupied. Move silently can guarantee initiative in combat.

Open lock: functions much like disable device.

Parry: The player is talking to an npc when they suddenly and unexpectedly make an attack on the player. Parry allows the player to avoid taking some damage from this sudden strike. Functions much like a "quicktime event" or reflex save.

Perform: Yep, distract guards like Hoegbo mentions. I've also used it to get a good reaction from an npc ("I will now sing a song in your honor!"), or distract them while a companion does something. I've even used it as a torture option, with a "failed" perform check being the preferred outcome. :-)

Search: I've used this to implement hidden compartments in items. The item is given a conversation, and a hidden search check determines if the player sees generic information about the item or discovers a hidden compartment. I've also made secret doors this way.

Set trap: another "tinkerer" skill.

Sleigh of hand: Use it to assassinate an npc in conversation. In one spot the player is tasked with killing the leader of an opposing faction. Since that faction is not hostile to the player, the player can freely approach their leader and engage them in conversation. Sleigh of hand functions as a proxy for using a small assassin weapon like a courtesan blade. A successful check deals massive damage to the target.

Spellcraft: a proxy for arcane knowledge. I've used it to give a player more conversation options.

Spot: like search, find hidden compartments. Search and spot can also be used as investigative skills. For instance if investigating a murder, when they examine the body they might find some clue.

Survival: Functions as a proxy for wilderness knowledge such as hunting, so it might open up new conversation options with a ranger npc for instance since you can "talk the talk".

Taunt: If an npc has poor impulse control, you can insult an answer you want out of them. The equivalent of getting the criminal to blurt out "I did it!" in court.

Tumble: Makes a good proxy for "quicktime events" like a reflex save. I've also used it as the opposite of sleigh of hand conditions, to survive damage from unexpected npc assassins (see my example above). I even used it once as an assassination attempt, the player can "fall awkwardly" onto a sitting npc, breaking their neck.

Use magic device: Mulitple uses. First as a specialized Lore skill. Let's say a player comes across a magical door lock that can't be otherwise picked (like in Trinity) that would otherwise require the player to go do something else before getting entry. UMD works like a lockpick for these otherwise "unpassable" doors. The player just naturally understands it's operation.

Second, UMD is a limited bluff, but the player is not actually bluffing, they know what they are talking about. UMD is a proxy for specialized class or racial knowledge, since UMD allows use of items with class/race/alignment restrictions, allowing a player with UMD to fake being a member of a class. You can discuss the fine points of "five finger open palm technique" with a high level monk. You can't actually demonstrate the technique, but you can certainly talk about it knowledgably. Thus, the player can "bluff" otherwise unbluffable npcs. It doesn't allow the player to actually speak elvish if they are faking being elvish.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Temporary stoppage due to depression

I have suffered from depression for the past 5-6 years. Alas, another depression episode has come upon me. My shrink had allowed me to stop medication after doing quite well for a significant period of time. So it is time for me to go back on medication. I should be back towards normal in a few weeks (the medications take that long). For the past few day I have barely been able to stay awake, a sure depression sign for me.

Work on Path of Evil (it's almost ready for others to look at, a few more bugs and the module transitions are needed) will continue full speed once I feel better, probably in a few weeks. Since the campaign has kept me motivated and goal driven (something I struggle with under depression), be assured that it is not being abandoned. Work will continue in the meantime, but because my depression manifests itself as exhaustion and sleep I expect progress will be slow indeed. Like I said, this should just be a few weeks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bug squashing, now at 1000 and counting....

Last night I squashed bug number one thousand! I also opened up my last module to bugtesting. So actually I'm running under the 1300 bugs I'd estimated when I started testing. I may catch up though, I've come to the conclusion that to strengthen the story I'll need to add about a half modules worth of areas and do some more writing/scripting.

Anyways, new areas open for testing, that means new screenshots to share. The "look" is still being polished, but I like it anyway.