Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

The Dream of Poor Bazin

Jerry Stratton

What if the Three Musketeers were journalists in Washington, DC? What if journalists were swashbuckling, swaggering, hard-drinking warriors of truth? Find out in Jerry Stratton’s The Dream of Poor Bazin.

Crosstraining-style fields and skills

Jerry Stratton, November 18, 2006

On the one hand, a character of high intelligence ought to know world history; on the other, having the skill “build bridges” ought to make the difference between a bridge that lasts and a bridge that falls. Languages are also an issue: I want a character with multiple languages to know each one better than a character with one language. But languages are also like building bridges, in that a character with no language skill is unlikely to be able to fake it.

I’m very inclined to take a page from Amber and not have any skills at all: “your character can do whatever they want from the background you’ve created. Now, roll against agility/intelligence/whatever.”

But this one might work. This skill system has fields and skills, very much like the previous idea I introduced in Fields of Study. And it might seem familiar to you in another way: it is based on the weapon familiarities system already in the game. I’ll explain that further in a later article.

Characters have fields, and within each field they have one or more skills. The die roll bonus is on the field. For fields to be useful, the character must have at least one skill in that field. When a character gains a field, the character will gain one skill automatically. Afterwards, increasing the field bonus and adding skills become separate improvements. A character can’t get better with one skill in a field and not the others. A character who is good with languages will be good with all of the languages they know, as long as they’re all in the same field.

Character creation

A player can choose, for their starting character, a base number of fields or skills, modified by Intelligence as a major contributor and charisma and wisdom as minor contributors as stated in the rules. Warriors, Monks, and Prophets have a base of three fields or skills. Thieves and Sorcerors have a base of four fields or skills.

Fields are major areas, such as “Historical Science” or “Language Science” or “Gambling Arts”. The first time a player chooses a field, their character gains a +1 for skills in that field. Afterwards, they choose either a field bonus or a new skill in that field.

Some fields are General, and may be learned as easily by any archetype. Others are best learned by one or more of the archetypes. If a field is neither General nor Archetypal, the first time the player chooses the field it counts as two fields rather than one. Further increases (either adding a skill or adding a +1) count for one as normal. Players can choose one field on character creation from another archetype’s list, that counts as archetypal for their character. For the rest of the game, that one field is, for that character, an archetypal field.

Fields must contain skills. The first time the player chooses a field, the character automatically receives both a bonus of +1, and a skill in that field. Afterwards, each choice means either another +1 bonus to the field or another skill in that field.

Native Language and Culture

New characters automatically gain the field “Native Culture” at +2, with the skills “Native Language” and one Etiquette from the available cultures. For example, a nobleman might choose “Court Etiquette”; a farmer “Backwoods Etiquette”, or a thief “Underworld Etiquette”.

Players can choose to place their Native Language skill into the Languages field if they choose the Languages field.

A player playing a character from Highland normally would have Native Culture +2 with (a) some Highland form of Etiquette and (b) Anglish as a skill within that field. If that character also had Languages, the player could choose to move Anglish into the Languages field. Native Culture for that character would be +2, with the one Etiquette skill. The character’s Languages field would remain the same, but would now have Anglish as one of the language skills in that field.

Example

Let’s go over the Tony Barlow example from the rulebook. Tony’s character is a Dwarven Warrior, Toromeen. Toromeen, as a Warrior with a 12 intelligence and a 15 wisdom, begins the game with five fields or skills, plus another five fields or skills for his age (151 years), and one skill (Spelunking) because he is a Dwarf.

Native Culture

Characters automatically gain their native culture as a field. Toromeen has Native Culture at +2, which for him is Dwarven Culture. He gains the Dwarven language and a Dwarven etiquette in that field. He chooses Mountain Dwarf Etiquette.

As a Dwarf, he also gains Spelunking, part of the Survival Craft field.

Chosen fields and skills

For the others, Tony (Toromeen’s player) chooses one field from the Sorceror archetype, Engineering Science at +1, and within it the skill Defenses. He now has 9 fields or skills remaining.

He chooses War Craft at +1 with the skill Weaponsmith, and then also chooses Armorer within that field and War Lore within that field, leaving him with 6 fields or skills to choose.

He chooses to understand the local human culture, and their language, and chooses the field Highland Culture with the skill Anglish. He has 5 fields or skills left to choose.

He chooses the Mountaineering skill as part of the Survival Craft field. He has 4 fields or skills left to choose.

He chooses the Brewing skill from the Food Craft field. He has 3 fields or skills left to choose.

He chooses Blacksmith skill from the Metal Craft field. He has 2 fields or skills left to choose.

He chooses to increase War Craft from +1 to +2, and Engineering Science from +1 to +2. That completes his ten choices.

Toromeen’s fields and skills

Dwarven Culture +2
Dwarven Language, Mountain Dwarf Etiquette
Highland Culture +1
Anglish
Engineering Science +2
Defenses
Food Craft +1
Brewing
Metal Craft +1
Blacksmithing
Survival Craft +1
Mountaineering, Spelunking
War Craft +2
Armorer, War Lore, Weaponsmith

Character advancement

New fields cost 11 mojo for an archetypal or general field, and 15 for any other field. The field comes with one skill and is at +1. Increasing a field by +1 costs four mojo, plus the current bonus. Adding a skill to a field costs five mojo (seven mojo for non-archetypal, non-general fields).

For example, if Toromeen wants to increase War Craft from +2 to +3, it will cost six mojo.

Using skills

The Adventure Guide decides on a difficulty level depending on the action, and on the appropriate ability or saving roll. The difficulty levels are:

EasierBonusHarderPenalty
Difficult0Difficult0
Easy2Very Difficult2
Very Easy4Extremely Difficult4
A Snap8Nearly Impossible8
Incredibly Easy16Practically Impossible16

The character’s field bonus is used as a bonus to the roll. Occasionally, the Adventure Guide may also choose to apply one other ability as either a major or minor contributor. (This should be fairly rare for saving rolls, which already contain the effects of two abilities.)

There are two types of successes, depending on whether the character has the appropriate skill or not. If the character does not have an appropriate skill, any success will be a general one. It will be a success, but it will not bring with it specific understanding. If the character has an appropriate skill they have a deeper understanding of what they’ve done.

For example:

  • If a character is trying to build a fire, and they don’t have any appropriate skill, they will still have built a fire. But if they have an appropriate skill, you can assume that the fire is safe, long-lasting, and more resistant to going out.
  • If the character is trying to understand a strange language, they will, without an appropriate skill, get a vague understanding that the creature is, for example, telling them to follow it. If they know the language, however, they will know what the creature is saying.
  • If the character is looking at hieroglyphics without knowing the written language, their success means that they might have some general idea of the nature of the document: whether it is regal or common, whether it announces an event or records a diary. If they have the appropriate language skill, however, then they have successfully deciphered the writing.

Only one field bonus can affect any given roll. Field bonuses can affect ability rolls if the field is an appropriate one. However, field bonuses cannot affect saving rolls unless the character has an appropriate skill within that field.

If an action requires more than one field, it probably needs to be broken into smaller steps, one per field. If a character has Read/Write in their Highland Culture field, and they know Frankish from their South Bend Culture field, and they want to read some Frankish text, they will first need to read the text using Anglish Culture and then they will need to understand it using South Bend Culture.

If an action requires one field, then only one roll need be made, even if the action requires multiple skills within that field.

Advice for Adventure Guides

Choose an appropriate ability or saving roll and a difficulty level. Let the player suggest appropriate skills, and then agree or disallow.

Sometimes, failures will still result in some obvious knowledge, and you can describe that, but remember that players must know when their characters failed a roll so that they can choose to bid mojo on that roll.

Fields

Most fields are best acquired by a specific archetype. Remember that players can choose one field from another archetype’s list during character creation.

GeneralAgricultural Craft, Clothing Craft, Culture, Education Science, Building Craft, Food Craft, Gem Craft, Merchant Art, Metal Craft, Natural Science, Sea Craft, Visual Art, Wood Craft
MonkHealing Craft, Logical Science, Medical Science, Performance Art, Personality Art, Writing Craft
ProphetDivine Science, Personality Art, Healing Craft, Historical Science, Writing Craft
SorcerorEngineering Science, Gaming Science, Historical Science, Language Science, Logical Science, Magical Science, Medical Science, Natural Science, Writing Craft
ThiefGambling Art, Language Science, Performance Art, Personality Art, Political Science, Survival Craft
WarriorAthletic Art, Gaming Science, Personality Art, Survival Craft, War Craft, War Art

Each field contains several skills. Some skills may go under more than one field. For example, Elvish might be learned as a skill under Language Science, or as a skill under Elvish Culture.

Arts, Crafts, and Sciences

There are four basic kinds of fields: Arts, Sciences, Crafts, and Cultures. Arts will have a tendency to use Charisma or Perception; Sciences will have a tendency to use Intelligence or Learning; and Crafts will have a tendency to use Wisdom or Willpower. However, it is only a tendency. The action determines the ability rolled against or the saving roll made. For Survivalcraft, for example, tracking is likely to be always a Perception roll. For the Athletic Arts, many of the rolls are going to be against the physical abilities.

Culture fields can contain any culturally relevant skills such as languages, etiquettes, and lores.

Agricultural Craft
Animal Husbandry, Farming, Hunting, Fishing
Athletic Art
Basketball, Football, Soccer
Clothing Craft
Leather Work, Sewing, Shoemaking, Tailoring, Tanning
Culture: Native or Other
Common skills under Native Culture are: various forms of etiquette; native languages or dialects; reading and writing. Rituals of that culture. Contacts in that culture. Lore in that culture. Games in that culture. History in that culture. Characters can also take as a field any other culture, and for skills under that field any language and etiquette form of that culture.
Divine Science
Dogma, Ritual, any religion’s Hierarchy, any religion’s Lore
Education Science
Learning, Memory, Teaching, Lesson Writing
Building Craft
Masonry, Metalworking, Mining, Ropes/Knots
Engineering Science
Architecture, Bridges, Cartography, Design, Management
Food Craft
Cooking, Baking, Brewing, Edible Plants, Gardening, Herbs & Spices.
Gambling Art
Carousing, Poker, Pool
Gaming Science
Chess, Go, Poker
Gem Craft
Appraisal, Gem Cutting, Jewelry Making
Healing Craft
Healing Lore, Herbalism, Midwifery
Historical Science
Ancient history, locale history, locale lore
Language Science
Read/Write, any language, Grammar
Logical Science
Algebra, Chess, Deduction, Geometry, Memory, Rhetoric
Magical Science
Astrology, Demonology, History of Magic, Rituals, Spellcraft, Spell Lore
Medical Science
Anatomy, Dissection, Medicine, Surgery
Merchant Art
Appraisal, Haggling
Metal Craft
Blacksmithing, Minting, Smelting
Natural Science
Animal Lore, Botany, Dissection, Taxidermy, Weather
Performance Art
Acting, Oratory, Prestidigitation, an Instrument, Singing, Songwriting, Storytelling
Personality Art
Carousing, Demagoguery, Making Contacts, Mediation, Persuasion, any culture’s Etiquette
Political Science
Law, Mediation, Oratory, Rhetoric, any political structure’s Etiquette, any political structure’s Government
Sea Craft
Navigation, Ropes/Knots, Weather
Survival Craft
Animal Lore, Direction Sense, Fishing, Hunting, Swimming, Ropes/Knots, Spelunking, Tracking, Weather, any environment’s Survival
Visual Art
Cartography, drawing, painting, sculpting.
War Art
Leadership, Tactics
War Craft
Armorer, Bowyer, Fletcher, Weaponsmith
Wood Craft
Carving
Writing Craft
Biography, Journalism, Lesson Writing, Songwriting, Storywriting
  1. <- Experience Recap
  2. Restricted Fields ->