- Jun 2005 -
19235 Posts

Secondary: Abilities and Subabilities

This is the second in my series of articles detailing a completely modular skill system that is not too complicated for new players.  In part one, I introduced the concept of the system, and also explained how the Background system currently in the Playtest Packet would fit in seamlessly with my expended module.  The articles in this series are:

Secondary: Intro and Backgrounds
Secondary: Abilities and Subabilities
Secondary: Skills
Secondary: Proficiencies
Secondary: Skill Points

In this article, I present the first two options: Abilities and Subabilities:

The Background system provides each character who chooses a background with thee Skills and some additional traits.  Some groups may opt to keep things even simpler and not have people choose Backgrounds at all.  But what if your group decides to use Backgrounds (or any of the other options), but you as a player want to keep things simple, and yet you don't want your character to fall behind mathwise with the other characters who are choosing these other options.  For you, there are two choices: Abilities and Subabilities.

Subabilities Option
Someone who wants a little more customization, but still does not want the level of customization found in Backgrounds, may choose the Subabilities Option.  In the Subabilities Option, each Ability has been divided into two roughly equal subabilities.  If you choose this option for your character, at first level you may choose two Subabilities that will each gain a +3 skill bonus whenever you roll a skill check to which that Subability should apply.  To determine if your Subability applies, whenever the DM calls for a skill check for an Ability that encompasses one of the Subabilities in which you have a bonus or penalty, ask the DM which Subability is implicated in this check.  Apply the appropriate bonus or penalty for that Subability.  If your character uses the Subabilities Option, you may increase the skill bonus of one Subability by +1 at every character level divisible by 3 (i.e., 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th, etc.) 

Narratively, the Subabilities Option is very similar to the Abilities Option.  It does not necessarily represent specialized training, but rather natural or learned aptitude in using your character's natural abilities.

Optional Rule for Subabilities: Alternately, you may choose a third Subability to gain a +3 skill bonus, but in return, two Subabilities that share a Subability in which you have gained a bonus will receive instead a -3 penalty.  You may never increase the skill bonus of a Subability that has a penalty associated with it.

The Subabilities.  Following are the twelve Subabilities you may choose, if your character selects the Subabilities Option:
  • Muscle (Strength): This Subability represents the muscle force that you can bring to bear on an obstacle.  It is commonly implicated by checks related to carrying, bending and breaking things. 
  • Motion (Strength): This Subability represents the ability to use your strength to move yourself or others and is commonly implicated in checks related to jumping, swimming, and climbing.
  • Hardiness (Constitution): This Subability represents the ability to endure extreme environments, such as heat, starvation, cold, torture, and drowning.
  • Health (Constitution): This Subability represents the ability to withstand attacks against your person, such as poison and disease.
  • Adroitness (Dexterity): This Subability represents your Ability to perform fine motor skills, and it most often implicated in picking locks, picking pockets, performing sleight of hand, or forging documents.
  • Coordination (Dexterity): This Subability represents your ability to manipulate your body into specific positions.  It is typically implicated by checks for tumbling and hiding.
  • Imagination (Intelligence): This Subability represents your ability to deduce solutions from clues and things you know or observe.  It is commonly implicated by checks related to puzzles, strategies, gambling, riddles, mysteries, and anticipating the actions of other characters.
  • Memory (Intelligence): This Subability represents your ability to recall important information, whether details of a conversation from a week before, or lore that one learned in studies.
  • Acuity (Wisdom): This Subability represents your perceptive abilities.  It allows you not only to see small details, to notice danger, to hear faint noises, to smell subtle odors, and to feel small changes in altitude, pressure, and temperature.
  • Resolve (Wisdom): This Subability represents your ability to withstand mental assaults and temptations, and to see through trickery, subterfuge, and deception.
  • Communication (Charisma): This Subability represents your ability to express yourself in a clear and understandable manner, whether through verbal communication, facial expressions, or gestures.
  • Presence (Charisma): This Subability represents your force of personality.  Some times simple force of will allows people to accomplish remarkable things.
So that's the Abilities and Subabilities sections.  Still pretty short and simple.  Groups who want to stick to Backgrounds or no skills wouldn't even read this section.  The trick to Subabilities is finding broad but roughly coequal divisions of each Ability that encompass together the entirety of that Ability.

Next week, I will discuss the Skills Option!

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