Dunstan, New Proficiencies

   Next up, it’s the second part of an old AD&D Player’s Option: Skills and Powers character – a list of some of the new Proficiencies we were using in our games at the time. Oddly enough, looking back at these old lists, quite a lot of this material has counterparts in later editions now. Too bad I wasn’t running a web page twenty years ago.

   I haven’t included the new psionic proficiencies in this list. If I get nostalgic again I may throw them in later on.

   Hedge Magic (The Lesser Paths): Hedge Magic proficiencies are classical, rather then fantasy, magic. They are – at least when externally directed – erratic, weak, undependable, and individualized, unlike the fast and powerful spells of a priest or mage. There are seven basic paths of hedge magic, although there are hundreds of styles.

Path

CP

Base

Ability

Groups;

Arcane Focus

5

5

Wis/Int or Dex/Bal

F/R

Attunement

5

6

Int/Kno or Wis/Int

W/P/R

Channeling

5

6

Con/Fit or Dex/Aim

W/P/R

Charmsmith

4

7

Int/Kno or Dex/Aim

W/P

Ritual Magic

5

7

Int/Kno

W/P

Shaping

3

5

Int/Kno or Dex/Aim

W/P

The Sight

3

8

Wis/Int

W/P/R

 

   Arcane Focus allows it’s user’s to channel a limited amount of magic into inherent abilities. Unfortunately, since major spellcasters are already channeling all the magical power they can get into spells using this skill forces them to give some (skill score/2 levels of spells) up. It’s most commonly used by Warriors and Rogues, representing powers gained through training in ancient secrets, dedication to some magical being, or a bizarre ritual. The user gains (Skill Score) “points” with which to “purchase” odd abilities, all of which must follow some sort of theme. Two sample themes are given below, with some likely powers and their costs. Note that most characters will not be able to learn more then a couple of secrets at first, they’ll have to work hard, and spend quite a few character points, to work up to them. Even worse, the 16- limit on a character’s basic proficiency score still applies.

The Mystic Martial Arts of The Hidden Order:

  • Iron Skin (4); Base AC 7, not cumulative with armor.
  • Iron Fist (2); Can strike unarmed for 1D6 damage.
  • Greater Iron Fist (+3, 5 total): Fists become +2 magical weapons.
  • Toughening (3); Gain one bonus hit die.
  • Prone Fighting (2); User suffers no penalties for position.
  • Great Leap (3); The user may jump up to 20 feet and land facing in any direction as a half-move action.
  • Healing Touch (4); The user may heal 2D4 points of damage, or grant a new save versus poison, by touch, 1/day.
  • Heightened Speed (3); +3″ to base movement.

Death Secrets Of The Nightspawn Assassins:

  • Infravision (3); 3″ Range.
  • Venom Spittle (4); The user may will his or her saliva to become a (2D6) insinuative and ingestive damage poison. The user is, of course, immune.
  • Shadow Smith (3); +15% to hide in shadows, face can’t ever be seen clearly unless intentionally exposed.
  • Light Foot (4); The user leaves no traces when walking and gains a +25% to move silently.
  • Improved Light Foot (+4). User may walk across water, or even chasms, provided that it’s fairly dark.
  • Shadowblade (5); The user may produce a knife or sword of darkness whenever one is needed. These fade away a few seconds after being released.

   Attunement is the art of using magical devices which a character normally could not. This comes in two basic variants; one allowing the use of any single item after a day or two of magical attunement and a successful roll. While this is pretty flexible, the user can only employ one item at a time. Alternatively, user’s may learn to employ a limited class of items, such as wands, rods, and staves normally limited to clerics. Unfortunately, such usage requires a proficiency check each and every time.

   Channeling is the ability to accumulate, and direct, bestowed magical power. Unfortunately, unlike clerics and mages, a channeler cannot draw on distant sources. They have to get their power directly, usually by bargaining with something or visiting some physical energy source. Once expended, that power is gone until it’s renewed by the same means – locking many channelers into perpetual service to supernatural masters. Channelers may store up to (Skill Score) “points” of powers, and must make a skill check to release them properly. In general, some relatively minor, specific, magical power counts as one point, major specific and minor general powers count as two, and major, general, powers count as three. As an example, a demonologist with a “channeling” skill of 12 could have “saved up” darkness (1), chilling touch (1), venomous blade (1), call upon nightmare steed (2), wall of bones (2), one minor power to be specified as needed (2), and a major power to be specified as needed (3). Of course, once those spells are expended the demonologist will have to get in touch with a powerful demon and buy some more power with ofers of service and sacrafices. As a rule, “Minor” powers can be of levels 1-3 while major ones are generally of levels 3-5 (Rarely of up to 6-7). Major powers are usually reserved for channelers who’ve been at it quite a while – and are really paying for that power or have built up special contacts to provide it.

   Charmsmith is the ability to produce “cantrip-level” charms and fetishes (As per “Spells And Magic”, PG 72). Such creations usually require 1-6 hours to make and last for 1D4 uses (No roll required) or indefinitely (With a roll and a sufficiently minor effect. For example, nice warm boots that never leak, easy-sharpening whetstones, and so on. As a rule, an individual can only use three such items at one time). Common “styles” include herbal magic, runecraft, minor alchemy, and so on.

   Ritual Magic can actually produce some potent spell- like results. Unfortunately, while a “true” spellcaster channels power from primal sources into his/her magics, a ritualist has to rely on what’s available on the spot – in themselves, their components, and the environment. “Minor” rituals can be preformed with a few consecrated tools, a few undisturbed hours, and some fatigue. Major workings may require a dozen assistants, a truckload of rare mystic components, particular locations and times, and a week of work. Great workings require very special places and times, the use of legendary items, and months or years of work. In general, the user describes what he or she wants to do – and then works out an “acceptable” rite in consultation with the GM. Stinting on the rite produces minuses and exceptional rites provide bonuses. Minor bits of folk magic (Wart cures, bringing home the stray cow, etc) do not require a roll. Common forms of ritual magic include Circle Magic, Summoning, Exorcism, Mediumism, “High” Ceremonial Magic, and many others.

   Shaping is the ability to channel ambient magic into cantrip-level effects. In general, personalized effects require no roll (You can make your eyes glow, clean mud off your clothes, and so on without a check) but external effects (Getting a fire lit, cleaning up someone else’s clothes, etc) do. “Specializations” may be added at a cost of 3 CP each, representing the ability to use such minor magics to influence game events or rolls by up to +/- 2/10%. For example, “Beglamourment” – manipulating details of appearance, voice, and scent – provides a “+2” bonus on social skills. “Crafting” provides a bonus on skills such as pottery, carpentry, and so on. “Shielding” might (If allowed by the GM) provide a +1 bonus on it’s user’s armor class OR saving throws (Not both). In any case, only one specialization may be used at a time.

   The Sight is divination, whether by means of crystal gazing, tarot cards, omen reading, clairvoyance, or the I-Ching. The user may automatically obtain any cryptic visions, clues, and portents the GM feels like providing. Attempting to focus on a particular question, event, or individual, requires a roll. Even if this succeeds, the results are usually even vaguer and more cryptic then the spontaneous visions are. “Sensitives” usually disdain props and trances, gaining speed at the expense of range.

.

Other new proficiencies include:

Proficiency

CP

Base

Ability

Groups;

Arrow Cutting

3

6

Dex/Aim

F

Berserker Rage

5

8

Str/Sta or Con/Fit

F

Block

2

7

Dex/Aim or Str/Mus

F

Blood Magic

4

5

Wis/Will

P/W

Connections

2

7

Cha/App or Wis/Int

Any

Intimidation

2

7

Cha/Lea or Str/Mus

W/R

Magic Research

3

6

Int/Kno or Wis/Int

P/W

Mechanician

3

6

Int/Rea or Dex/Aim

W/R

Mercantilism

2

7

Int/Kno or Wis/Int

P/R

Pattern Break

4

7

Wis/Int or Int/Rea

P/W

Piercing

4

6

Wis/Wil or Dex/Aim

P/W

Pyrotechnics

3

6

Int/Kno or Dex/Bal

Any

Rear Guard

4

6

Dex/Bal

R/W

Sincerity

3

6

Cha/App

R

Slave Master

3

7

Str/Mus or Int/Rea

F/R

Spell Pool

3

2

Wis/Wil or Int/Kno

P/W

Spellweaving

4

6

Wis/Int or Int/Kno

P/W

Superstition

3

8

Wis/Wil

P

Theurgy / Thaumaturgy

5

5

Int/Kno or Wis/Int

Any

 

   Arrow Cutting is a technique that allows the user to use the “Block” and “Parry” maneuvers vrs missiles. This does not require a roll. A roll is required only if the user wishes to redirect or retain the missile.

  Berserker Rage is a pretty dubious “skill” to have – but many warriors do. In essence, it’s the ability to draw recklessly on your body’s reserves – risking rapid exhaustion in favor of a burst of energy NOW. Adrenalin is useful (The “user” is impervious to fatigue and fear for the duration of the fit), but soon wears off. The user may invoke any one of the following powers for 2D4 rounds with a successful roll, but will be exhausted at the fits end (-3 penalty to everything until at least a half-hour rest taken). Regardless of the exact power in use, the user is impervious to fatigue and fear for the duration of the rage. This “skill” may be used once per day normally, each successive use is at a cumulative -2 penalty. The individual powers may be stacked – but not with themselves. A skilled berserker might invoke “The Whirlwind”, “Hysterical Strength”, and “Iron Skin” at the same time, but can’t invoke “The Whirlwind” three times to gain +3 attacks.

  • A) The Whirlwind. +1 attack until the fit ends.
  • B) Hysterical Strength. +2 To Hit, +3 Damage, and +5 on any required strength rolls until the fit ends.
  • C) Endurance. Delay the effects of any one injury or toxin until the fit ends.
  • D) The Juggernaut. Cause structural damage (As per a “Giant Fist”) to walls, doors, and such, for the duration of the fit.
  • E) Fire Leaping. +3 bonus to AC and saving throws for the duration of the fit.
  • F) Iron Skin. -3 (-6 vrs battering and subdual) to the total damage taken each round during the duration. This will NOT heal the user if no damage is taken!

   Block is a more “controlled” relative of electing to parry. It provides a “+3” bonus to the user’s AC per attack devoted to blocking. Actual rolls are generally reserved for “special tricks”, such as using a mirrored sheild to “block” a gaze weapon – or trying to use your enchanted sword to block/deflect a beam-catagory spell.

   Blood Magic is the nasty art of powering your spells with life energy. This costs 1D6 HP per spell level, such damage can only be healed by rest and time. Most spellcasters use blood magic only in desperation, using their own life force to power some crucial spell. This does not require a roll, and usually doesn’t even require that the user have this skill. Serious blood magic uses other beings life energy. A spellcaster with this skill can accumulate a “reserve” of up to (Skill Score) spell levels worth of power by torturously killing creatures. As a rule, “S” creatures are worth one spell level, “M” creatures are worth two, and size L+ is worth three. If the creatur is sentient these values increase to 2/3/5. Blood magic is best used in destructive and necromantic spells. Player characters usually can’t be blood mages, since no sane group will put up with having a psychotic torturer who thinks of people as batteries to power his or her magic around while they sleep.

   “Connections” isn’t really a skill, but it certainly isn’t a “power” or “spell” . “Connections” must be of a specific type; for example, characters may have Arcane, Criminal, Noble, or Guild Connections. The type is only limited by the imagination of the player and the patience of the GM. “Connections” can be used to obtain general information (“The Thieves Guild is very powerful in the city of Lankhmar”) in their field without a skill roll. “Generic” individuals (EG; “Criminal” Connections could be used to locate “a fence”) can be found with a check. Characters with this skill will also know some (Usually 1D4+Level) specific individuals reasonably well. Such individuals are not necessarily “bosom buddies” – and are subject to approval by the GM. The ambitious should be aware that powerful contacts can readily draw them into truly major trouble.

   Intimidation is the fine art of scaring people. For our purposes it also covers interrogation and the classic “stare-down”. In general, one can scare ordinary folks without a check; most people don’t want to argue with a menacing hulk. Trying to do things like glare a witness against you in court into silence, frighten away a gang of punks, win an unspoken “battle of wills” (The winner of such a confrontation gains a +a bonus to hit, saving throws, and initiative, if the loser elects to attack him or her after the psychic duel) – or extract information from a recalcitrant foe – will all require a roll.

 

   Magical Research normally requires time, money, and an appropriate location (A library / laboratory / shrine / etc). Priests and Magi with this skill can reduce those needs somewhat with a successful check – allowing research in one-half the usual time, at one-half the usual cost, or with minimal – traveling – facilities. Sadly, only one of these benefits can be applied per success – and only one roll per research attempt may be made (Multiple die benefits do apply if your GM is using that rule). Even without a check, this talent provides a +2/10% bonus to the researcher’s chance of success and allows it’s user’s to simply “purchase” new spells at a cost of 1 CP each, rather then the usual 2+ CP cost (Skills and Powers, page 136). Any number of spells may be purchased this way as long as the characters CP hold out.

   Mechanician provides a fine facility with mechanical gadgets, such as locks, clocks, springs, traps, and such. The user gains a +15%/3 bonus on relevant skills and may carry around up to (Skill Score/2) minor gadgets of his own design..

   Mercantilism is the fine art of running a business and making money. It basically covers dealing with the regulations, taxes, accounting, and necessary bribes – as well as knowing where – and from whom – to buy and sell almost anything. If the “user” is running a large-scale operation (EG, a guild/trade route), a successful check will increase the income from such operations by 20%.

   Pattern Breaking is the rare art of converting fixed magics – memorized spells – back into free magic and into the user’s “spell pool” (QV). This is highly dangerous; a failed skill check releases the power of the spell in an uncontrolled magical discharge (By default this does 1D6 damage to the user per level of the spell which was being converted. The GM is, of course, free to come up with his or her own effects based on the specific spell or something like the “Wild Surge” table). Character’s who do not possess spell pools may attempt to “reshape” the converted power “on the fly”, but this imposes a -3 penalty on the skill check.

   Piercing is the art of breaking through magic resistance. The user may subtract his or her skill rating from the targets magic resistance. The user may develop piercing specialities for 3 CP each. These triple the effective rating if they’re general (Demons, Residents of the Underdark), or quintuple it versus a specific group or race (Drow).

   Pyrotechnics covers making various fireworks : Roman Candles. Flash, Smoke, and “Boom” Powders. Firecrackers. Rockets. Sparklers. Colored Flares and Sparks. The things your mother told you not to play with. The most deadly thing this covers is Greek Fire – a mixture that has to “cure” in sealed vials because, after it’s finished, it burns fiercely if exposed to oxygen (2D6/1D6 damage for the first/second turn).

   Rear Guard is a specialized set of combat techniques designed to allow the user to protect his or her back and strike effectively at targets to the side or rear. This still leaves the user at a -1 penalty to AC and rolls “To Hit”, but that’s considerably better then usual. A roll may be called for to detect a rear attack, or to employ special techniques (For example, if you’re back-to-back with someone, and decide to backstab them for 3x normal damage).

   Sincerity is commonly developed by rogues and thieves. In a world where a charge of theft commonly carries the death penalty, divinatory magic actually works – and is usually available to the local priest – where the local population is small, and there is no “fifth amendment”, thieves are generally very desperate – often very young (Sadly, “Juvenile Justice” is a modern idea) – and soon dead. Sincerity is the ability to actually see yourself as wronged and innocent – regardless of the truth. In effect, the character can “fool” spells such as “Detect Lie”, “ESP”, and “Know Alingment” with a successful roll.

   Slave Master; This unpleasant skill covers “breaking in”, evaluating, training (as laborers, craftsmen, servants, concubines, or what-have-you), and trading in, slaves. Relevant abilities (E.G.; Hypnosis, Healing, Suggestion, or any power which can be used to cause lots of pain without permanent damage) supply the user with extra bonuses.

   Spell Pool: Thus unusual skill determines how much magical power a spellcaster can store up in it’s “free” state, ready to be “channeled” into any spell pattern / formula the user is familiar with. Characters with this skill may accumulate up to (Skill Score/2, Skill Score for priests and wizards) “spell levels” worth of “free” magic. Any energies beyond that limit must be stored as “Memorized” spells as usual.

   -In game terms, a full-blown “spell point” system is fine at low levels – but gets out of hand at high ones. This version allows for flexibility at lower levels but will still require high-level casters to preset most of their arcane arsenal. For those who want to use the old “cantrip” system, one cantrip costs .25 spell points.

   Spellweaving allows the user to customize his or her spells – adding up to three advantages per spell during the memorization process. Unfortunately, each advantage must be balanced by a disadvantage. A roll is required if the user is attempting to use a spell which he could not normally cast (yet) as the basis for his effect. In these cases the check is made at the time of casting; a failure expends the spell without effect. Attempting to use spellweaving with “free” magic is dangerous; the roll is made at a -1 per level of the spell and a failure results in an uncontrolled spell discharge. By default this does 1D6 damage to the user per level of the spell being manipulated. The GM is, of course, free to invent effects based on the individual spell or something like the “Wild Surge” table.

  • Common advantages include; -1 Level, increased range or duration, +4 on caster’s effective level, -4 penalty on target’s saving throw, dropping required components, and reduced casting times. Others are possible.
  • Common disadvantages include; +1 level, reduced range, damage, or duration, x10 casting time, requiring catalysts (IE; It draws magic from something else. Each casting might require a drop of dragons blood or a charge from a wand with relevant powers. Specifics can be negotiated with your GM), unpleasant side effects (Taking damage, being exposed to corrupting forces, attracting attention from – or owing favors to – powerful magical beings), simply being extremely expensive and cumbersome to cast (Usually implying a big ritual), -4 on the users effective level (Only for spells in which this matters), and only working under specific conditions (In shadows, versus orcs, and so on). The GM should disallow disadvantages that don’t actually limit the use of the spell – such as “Specific Conditions” on free magic.
  • Spells can be reduced to level “0” by advantages. In such cases four such spells count as a single level one spell.

   As an example, a mage helping an army besiege a town might want a large-scale incendiary effect, rather then a monster-roasting Fireball. He might increase the area of effect greatly (Two advantages), and the range a bit (One advantage), at the price of decreasing it’s damage enormously (To 1D6/5 Levels), allowing those who make a successful save to escape damage entirely (It bursts as a lot of fiery rays, a save indicates that none of them hit you), and requiring a full turn to cast the thing.

   Superstition. By the rules, faith alone suffices to gain first and second level spells. Even if a cleric is totally cut off from his / her deity, their own belief, will, and study can power such simple magic. They’re available even if the entity in question does not exist – yet. As seen by the spread of faiths between spheres, belief shapes reality – and any imaginable being is out there somewhere.

   Some people’s faith is stronger. Some manage to draw on the power of popular beliefs even without a deity to focus it. Others draw on minor spirits and supernatural beings. Whatever the cause, a cleric with a proficiency in superstition can draw on a list of up to a 12 third- level spells without a check. They can even use fourth- level spells – but the available list is limited to six such spells, and a check is required.

   This “skill” is responsible for the various schisms, heresies, and clerics falling away from their faiths. It only takes a few mid-level priests who get superstition instead of theology to start it.

   Theurgy and Thaumaturgy allow their user’s access to very limited spellcasting abilities. Unfortunately, the score in this skill may not exceed it’s user’s Wisdom / Intuition (For Theurgy), or Intelligence / Knowledge (For Thaumaturgy). Where relevant, the user’s casting level is equal to the highest level of spell usable.

Skill Score

L0

L1

L2

L3

Caster Level

08+

1

1

10+

2

2

12+

2

1

3

14+

3

2

4

16+

3

2

1

5

18+

3

2

1

1

6

   Level 0 spells are equivalent to individual Cantrips or Orisons. Theurgy permits the use of priestly spells, users may select from up to six spells of each level of magic usable. Thaumaturgy permits the use of wizardry. Such spells must be found and learned normally (Use Int-3 to determine the possible number). Optionally, GM’s may choose to permit the automatic acquisition of 1-2 spell formula of each level for thaumaturgists who specialize in a particular type of magic (For example, spells that are related to bows).

   Note that, in general, characters will need a 16+ Int or Wis score to start out with a cantrip available, and will usually need to reach level nine (And spend 8 more CP) to get a second level spell. Unclassed NPC’s may build up their skill scores as usual. Many or most village priests and magi are actually unclassed individuals with this skill or “hedge magic” skills.

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