I am trying to get back on top of my blogging and fleshing out my new gaming world.
For two reasons, I have never been quite satisfied with simple (roll 1d20 under a specified ability's score) ability score checks. First, I like to stick with a general rule to keep things rolling in the right direction. Rolling higher is always better. This is a good rule to follow with newer players; it makes things a little easier for them (I also believe that higher values should be better... that's why, even though I am a BX fan I have adopted ascending AC like in Swords & Wizardry). Second, I have never liked that your ability to succeed on these checks (though not necessarily the actual scores thenselves) do not change as a character levels up. To me, in D&D a character levels up and gets better at doing stuff... even stuff that is dependent upon their ability scores. With some help from Greg Gorgonmilk and David Lewis Johnson I have devised a simple system which curbs the extreme probabilities of rolling d20s, allows me to easily make doing stuff either more or less difficult without over thinking it, and which complies with the criteria mentioned above.
Ability Score Checks:
When in doubt roll an ability score check... basically if there is not another applicable mechanic, I will have the player roll a few d6s with the target being set by checking the Action Throw Table (below) which I discovered on Greg's old blog. I am not sure if he made it himself or if he borrowed it from someone else. But in any case, thanks Greg. I like this table because it takes into account a character's level when setting the target for each ability score check.
One way to get to roll an extra d6 when making an ability score check is to have some experience in working your way through similar tasks. At creation and later in their careers (i.e. as they advance) players choose Backgrounds for their characters... they may be bundles of skills they have learned, innate abilities, etc. This is another of David's good ideas. Thanks, again. In the campaign setting from which both of David's ideas come, Gathox Vertical Slum, David calls what I call Backgrounds, Wheelhouses.
Within the next week I will putting up another post with a little intro to my new campaign and some basic information about alignment and religion in my game.