Craft and Profession Skills are often regarded as wastes of skill points. After all, craft skills list three basic options – repair items, make items/masterwork items, and make money. You can’t even make alchemical items without “being a spellcaster” – although apparently learning a single, totally irrelevant, cantrip will do. Profession skills have even less to say; the ONLY thing that the description lists them as being good for is making money – and even that is at rates so poor that it’s unlikely that any real player character will want to bother unless he or she is just filling in the downtime.
The listed applications for skills are simply examples; the only real limit on what you can do with a skill is what a game master can be persuaded to to set a target number for.
A blank spot in the rules is a place where you can define the effects you want.
So Profession (Sailor) could reasonably be used to stock a ship properly for a trip, to guide it through a hurricane, to navigate it, to handle its sails and ropes, to climb around in its rigging, to organize its watches, to perform fancy maneuvers, to try to outrun another ship, to make small repairs to it, to keep it afloat despite damage, and so on. It could also be used to find the best bars and recreations in a port town, to know how to handle cannon, to avoid a press gang, to predict the weather at sea, or to handle pretty much anything else involved in being a Sailor. Does that overlap with several other skills? Why yes, yes it does! And so what? It’s not like you can’t find ways to get other skills to overlap – or even any real reason why skills shouldn’t overlap.
Will a sufficiently high Craft skill let you make far more money? Gain you entrance to the courts of kings as a master craftsman? Let you build wonders like Daedalus? Let you imbue normal items with temporary powers or even craft magical items without special feats or levels as a spellcaster?
Ask your game master. It very well might. In fact, it SHOULD. If ten levels of Craft/Swords costs the same as ten levels of Perception then it should be just as useful (unless, of course, the game is using the d20 skills rewrite, and it doesn’t cost the same…).
So lets say that Profession (Investigator) covers gathering, preserving, and analyzing evidence, getting along with the police and using their (and other public or library) records, using relevant sensory equipment, basic surveillance, and having a license. We can even note that it provides a synergy bonus on Profession/Computer Expert and Profession/Researcher as well as some police and street contacts scattered around your home city. If you have it at a professional level you may even have a private detective’s license. Do you want to set up a hidden stake-out? Locate a street informant? Do a little skip-tracing? This skill will work.
Is having it necessary? You could certainly use Search to look for clues, Craft (Alchemy) to preserve them, and something (perhaps Knowledge/Arcana) to analyze them. You could use Diplomacy to get along with the police and Knowledge/Local to know about their procedures. Searching public records might call for Gather Information, while running surveillance would use Hide and Spot, and perhaps Disguise and Listen. Using “relevant sensory equipment” (and probably computers) would likely be Use Magic (or other) Device. Getting police contacts is probably a job for a special Feat or (In Eclipse) buying some contacts – but would you rather take a feat and eleven different skills – or just one skill?
Do you want skills to be subordinate to narrative and players solving their own problems? In this case you want another world law – Narrative Preemption. Buy this one as “Opportunist/the character gets to make an immediate skill check if an appropriate attempt to resolve a situation descriptively fails if he or she has a relevant skill at +5 or more (6 CP).” While this option is discussed in detail over HERE, what it amounts to is that the players get to describe what their characters are doing first – and only roll if that wouldn’t work because their character is likely to be better at whatever-it-is than they are. Thus, if a rogue was proceeding cautiously and checking the floor for traps, but failed to check for trigger-wires strung across the corridor at chest height, he or she could make a “find traps” check to detect the trigger-wire. If he or she was running madly down the corridor, there wouldn’t be a check; that’s not an appropriate attempt in the first place.
Do skills cover any magic by default? In a world full of magic it’s certainly arguable that they should cover at least a little; there’s no game-mechanical difference between using a prayer to the fire spirits and some mystic gestures to light a fire and rubbing two sticks together. They’ll both call for relatively dry wood (the fire gods hate water), free hands, and a little time. If you blow it with the sticks you may get an annoying splinter and no fire. If you blow it with the fire spirits you may get an annoying blister and no fire. Either way… it’s just special effects, and those are generally up to the player.
Some skills may be much more deeply involved with magic than that. To be classic, lets have a look at Profession (Demonologist).
Contrary to Hollywood, medieval demonology did not require any ill intent; the notion was that “demons” (basically all inhabitants of the lower planes) were subject to the will of God; and so they were forced to submit to a magician who was holy enough to invoke God’s authority – which wasn’t actually that hard; God was supposed to approve of humans a good deal more than he approved of demons.
Of course, if you weren’t holy enough even by that loose standard to invoke God’s authority, or wanted to summon a demon for malevolent and immortal purposes, there was always making a bargain. Luckily for the less-than-saintly, holy symbols and words – and thus protective circles and amulets – remained potent regardless of the worth of their user.
So Profession (Demonologist) covers identifying and recalling facts about creatures of the lower planes, including their true names (like a Knowledge Skill), creating inscriptions and amulets that offer (some) protection against creatures of the lower planes, summoning and banishing such creatures, and binding them to service. It DOESN’T cover bargaining with such entities; that’s a task for diplomacy, negotiations, and offerings – but if an agreement is reached it can be sealed and made binding.
- DC 5: Recognize a blatant infernal creature. Seal a bargain with a minor infernal creature. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 2 or less at the cost of 1d4 attribute damage (the summoner may select the attribute to be damaged), minor components, and one hour (minute for banishing). Note that a banishment may be directed at a demon OR at the circle or item that was used to call it forth.
- DC 10: Draw a protective circle equivalent to a Circle of Protection Against Evil. Recognize the major types of infernal creatures. Seal a Bargain with a major infernal creature. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 3 or less at the cost of 1d6 attribute damage, 10 GP worth of components, and 3 hours (minutes for banishing, instant with a named infernal creatures true name).
- DC 15: Recognize a shapeshifted infernal creature as such. Provide basic information about most types of Infernal Creatures. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 5 or less at the cost of 1d8 attribute damage, 25 GP in components, and 7 hours (minutes for banishment, one standard action with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal creature of CR 2 or less to service (a Demonologist may so bind up to (Charisma/3) total CR worth of infernal creatures, although the CR of any individual creature may not exceed one-half the number of skill points invested in Demonology, rounded down).
- DC 20: Provide some details about most types of infernal features. Create an amulet that provides a Protection From Evil effect versus a general type of lesser demon or a specific greater demon (a demonologist may empower up to (Cha Mod) such amulets at any one time). Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 8 or less at the cost of 1d10 attribute damage, 60 GP in components, and 1 day (30 minutes for banishment, as a full-round action with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal creature of CR 3 or less to service.
- DC 25: Determine a minor fiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 12 or less at the cost of 1d12 attribute damage, 150 GP in components, and a week (three hours for Banishment or five rounds with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal creature of CR 5 or less to service.
- DC 30: Determine a powerful fiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 16 or less at the cost of 1d20 attribute damage, 400 GP in components, and two weeks (one day for Banishment, or ten minutes with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal entity of CR 8 or less to service.
- DC 35: Determine a major power’s true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 22 or less at the cost of 1d20 attribute damage, 400 GP in components, and two weeks (three days for Banishment, or one hour with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal entity of CR 12 or less to service.
- DC 40+: Determine an archfiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 25 or less at the cost of 1d20+4 attribute damage, 1000 GP in components, and one month (three days for Banishment, or one hour with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal entity of CR 12 or less to service.
Try Again: Rolling a 1 on an attempt to Summon or Bind a demon generally just turns it loose to do what it wishes – although you can’t even attempt to summon something beyond your current limits. Rolling a 1 on an attempt to seal a bargain results in the demon being free to do as it wishes (although it may pretend otherwise). A character may not “Take 10″ or “Take 20″ on (Profession) Demonology Checks.
Synergy: Having 5+ ranks in Profession (Demonology) offers a +2 Synergy Bonus on both Knowledge (The Planes) and Knowledge (Religion).
There; that will let a Demonologist command the services of an Imp, Quasit, or similar entity relatively readily – and eventually add a Hellhound or similar creature – but anything beyond that will require either purchasing special abilities in the field or extremely high levels and attributes. Similar Skills – Profession (Elemental Master) or Profession (Lightbringer) – can cover calling up minor elemental creatures or minor celestial beings. It won’t give such characters the fast, heady, power of actual spells or the earthshaking power of high-level adventurers – but it will certainly let them do some things and get into far more trouble than they can handle… In Eclipse this (and any similar skills) will probably count as “Occult Skills” – but that’s a minor tweak.
If you think that skills in general should cover some magic beyond special effects, you can take a look at the Condensed d20 skill list (which builds in magical effects), consider the d20 Practical Skill Redesign (the Synergies and Skill Benefits section especially), or add Skill Tricks or The Magical World (below) as a world law. Those modifications will allow any skillful character to work some minor magical tricks – and make such hedge wizardry a common fact of life.
Skill Tricks: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect; the user may create level zero (DC 15) and weak level one (DC 25) effects with skill checks; such checks are treated as move actions and the user may always opt to “take 10″ for the purpose. Each skill may only be used to produce an effect once every ten minutes and no individual skill may be used to produce more than four L0 and three L1 effects per day with failed checks counting against this limit. If this leads to too much freeform mayhem, the game master may opt to limit any individual user to a maximum of three different L0 and two different L1 effects. If a character wishes to buy Skill Tricks independently it will cost 6 CP.
Some sample L0 effects from an old character writeup include:
- Bluff – Lesser Hypnosis: As per Hypnotism, but can only affect a single target with up to 1d4 hit dice.
- Disable Device – Momentary Jam. A device – even something as simple as a door – can be disabled at a range of up to 60′ for 1d4 rounds.
- Hide – Moment of Invisibility: Lasts up to three rounds, but ends if you attack something.
- Knowledge/Local – Diplomatic Guise: Creates an illusory change of clothing, which lasts for up to one hour.
- Martial Art – Iron Skin: +2 Force Armor for thirty minutes.
- Move Silently – Tracelessness: Wipes away signs of minor activities (footprints, disturbed dust, fingerprints, swinging curtains, lit candles, etc) within a forty-foot radius burst.
- Search – Reveal Magic: Close range, any magic within a 5′ radius burst will briefly sparkle in a complex light display life fireworks. Spellcraft rolls may be made to try and tell what it is.
- Sleight of Hand – Recall Knives: Puts up to (2 x Dex Mod) knives that you drew within the last three minutes back into your sheathes if they’re within a 30′ radius and not being held by someone else.
- Tumble – Great Leap: Adds 20 feet to your movement this round.
This approach will make every expert into a minor magician – no match for an actual spellcaster of course, but with many neat little powers to make their skills more interesting.
If you want high-level skills to be a good deal more powerful then use…
The Magical World: 2d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for half cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect (effects may be built up over time via ritual behaviors)/only to produce effects associated with Skills, requires a minimum skill bonus of +5/+10/+15/+25 to make Minor / Notable / Major / Grandiose edits (6 CP). High level characters may want to buy another couple of dice of Mana and some Rite of Chi and Bonus Uses to recharge more quickly, but that’s cheap enough.
This approach makes expert skill users capable of incredible feats – given sufficient time and ranks. A common Sailor (+5 skill) might be capable of getting the sails fixed during a storm or patching a leak quickly (A minor edit costing 1-3 Mana). An expert might bring a ship safely through a hurricane or improvise enough repairs to keep a gravely damaged craft afloat (a notable edit costing 3-5 Mana). A true master might pilot a ship safely though a horrible supernatural storm or whirlpool or rebuild a functional ship from scraps (a major edit, costing 5-10 Mana and possibly requiring days at the high end). If the GM permits “edits” on such a scale, a transcendent master with a skill bonus of +25 might be capable of steering a course between the worlds (a grandiose edit, costing 9-15 Mana – and very likely requiring multiple days). Similarly, a craftsman might reduce the time required for a task as a minor edit, create a masterwork item as notable one, given an item minor magical properties as a major one (bypassing feat, spell, caster level, and possibly part of the time requirements, albeit not the costs, of making such an item), or even create major items similarly as grandiose edits. This will NOT allow the creation of epic items – such things are still the provenance of epic spellcasters – but will allow master sword-smiths to create magical blades without requiring them to be high-level spellcasters with specialized feats.
Even if the game master doesn’t want to apply either of those options in general, individual Eclipse characters are – as always – generally free to buy them. If a particular Eclipse character wants skills to cover other kinds of magic… well, there are a variety of ways to do that over in this article on Skills and Powers.
How high should skill difficulties be?
Ordinary applications of skills have difficulties of 5-15 – a range at which success is generally automatic for a skilled adult. Your basic level one mechanic (with +4 skill points in Profession (Mechanic), a +3 Specialty in Cars, and perhaps a +1 attribute bonus if he has a knack for his job) can “take 10″ and reliably fix virtually any problem with your car – even if he might have to order a few parts or it would take an impractical amount of work to unbend the frame.
The world record for a long jump – and athletes normally make quite a few tries in their lives – is not quite thirty feet (DC 30). Evidently no athlete in the entire world has a jump bonus of more than +10. Lets see now; even going with just the base rules a level one human can get… (4 SP +4 Attribute Bonus +2 Masterwork Shoes +4 Run Feat +3 Skill Focus Feat) = +17. At level two you can throw in another skill points and a +2 Synergy bonus from Jump for a +20 – enough to let you “take 10″ and break the world record.
According to the skill tables a DC 30 Perform check will let you impress gods. A DC 30 Knowledge check is enough for a breakthrough insight that leads to a new scientific theory, such as Relativity. Those scores may be a bit harder to reach without that +4 bonus from the “Run” feat – but consulting a few colleagues, or getting a good stage manager, can get you a nice “Aid Another” bonus or two to replace it. The greatest feats that any actual real-world human being has ever accomplished are DC 30. Any DC beyond that is in the realm of fiction and mythology.
There is one thing to be cautious about however. You DON’T want to get tangled up in real-world complications. Sure Knowledge (Tactics) or Profession (Military Commander) probably covers anticipating enemy tactics, coordinated plans of attack, evaluating intelligence, and so on – but half of that is stomping on the player’s fun, and half of it is stuff that even the game master may not know. Bringing in real-world tactics beyond the most basic is just asking for arguments and confusion, while trying to figure out what tactics will really work best in a fantasy world run on a somewhat-abstract rules system is a nightmare all it’s own.
When skills like that come up… just let the players roll for some abstract bonuses and avoid all those complications.
So here are some possibilities for Profession (Military Commander) – an expert on effectively running military units, tactics, and command. Roll this skill when the user is giving orders to NPC’s or offering advice to PC’s. If both sides have a professional commander… let them roll against each other and round up the margin of victory to the nearest 5 to see what benefits the winner can make available. Sadly, PC’s are always individualistic and awkward; they only gain half the benefits a commander can provide and even then only if they actually listen to him or her.
- DC 5: Organize a Patrol, military outpost, or small unit effectively. Arrange tight security for an area (+4 to rolls to spot the enemy or people sneaking in). Set up a rationing system to extend the effective duration of your supplies by 25%. Get some basic orders (attack at THIS point, head for the escape routes at THIS point) drummed into your troops. Get a bunch of peasants or kids to work together and point their weapons in the same direction with reasonable coordination.
- DC 10: Organize NPC’s to take full advantage of defensive terrain / fortifications (+2 to Saves and AC). Organize basic troops into mass combat units (representing groups of organized minor creatures as individual higher-level characters). Get a warning from the GM if you’ve included a really, REALLY bad idea in your plans. Identify military ranks and general organization.
- DC 15: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 50%. Issue advance orders so that NPC units effectively remain under your command when you’re not there. Given NPC troops +2d6 Temporary Hit Points. Give NPC troops a +2 Initiative Bonus. Provide two DC 5 benefits. Provide your troops with a +6 bonus to Hide when laying in ambush. Set up an escape plan which will get all your mass combat units and at least 50% of any individual characters out “alive” if you lose the battle.
- DC 20: Give NPC troops (whether as individuals or as mass combat units) a +2 to Hit and Damage or +1 level of Warrior. Provide two DC 10 benefits. Delay placing any traps you set up until you need them (to represent anticipating where you will want them later). Get a warning from the GM if you’ve included a blatantly bad idea in your plans. Get (Int Mod) advance hints about your opponents troops/tactics/resources and get to modify your plans accordingly. Provide two DC 5-10 Benefits (they do stack). Deduce the basic capabilities of opposing mass combat units.
- DC 25: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 75%. Provide two DC 10-15 benefits. Deduce where the enemy has hidden units and/or traps. Keep one out of every four enemy mass combat units from making it to the battlefield.
- DC 30: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 100%. Provide two DC 15-20 benefits or three DC 5-10 benefits. Get to “see” where the enemy has set up their troops and positions before setting up yours.
Try Again: Generally you can only roll Profession (Military Commander) once per situation. While you can “Take 10″, you cannot “Take 20″.
Synergy Bonuses: +2 to Spot checks when looking for ambushes, military details, hidden installations, or locating snipers, +2 bonus to any combat related Sense Motive checks (such as resisting a feint), +2 to Knowledge checks that involve military topics.
There’s no reason for skills to be dull – or to be uncreative with them – especially in Eclipse.
Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.
- Raykul Tepes, Scion of the Damned (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
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- The Balancer Of Scales, Dragonstar/Pathfinder Paladin (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Eclipse – Dressed for Success from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] Eclipse — Cinematic Combat at the Narrative Convenience Store (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] Illurion Voice-Of-Nightmares, Bard of the Unmaking (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Eclipse – Androids and Constructs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)