Training Rules Applied

Soloman smashed the skull of the zombie lord with a stoke of his mighty war hammer! Suddenly, he felt a change in himself; not only did he feel new strength surging through his veins, and wield his hammer better, but he abruptly knew how to use a crossbow, regardless of never having picked one up before, as well as acquiring the exact methods of how to construct his own arrows. It was amazing! And there was much rejoicing.

Leveling up leads to a few technical dilemmas in a game. It never fails to amaze me that a player can argue about the fact that crocodiles can’t breath fire, and then turn around, five minutes later, and be excited because, suddenly, he can cut his own gems without giving it a second thought. Today we are going to study the Optional Training method of leveling up, why and when we should observe it, and how to go about enforcing it.

Leveling Up

This is probably the most exciting part of the game. Getting better at your trade, and obtaining new skills. We DM’s can put them through more hell, which is good for us, and they get to be stronger, which is good for them, so everybody is happy!

Leveling up is definitely a necessity of the game, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to lose the logic of the game. Some stuff will automatically be apparent, while others will require a Dungeon Master to make a judgment call before they take effect. For this we are going to break down exactly what happens when a character levels up, and how we can translate this into our games logically.

Of course the first thing we have to do is change our thinking about what happens in the first place. In order to level up, one has to first satisfy the XP requirements to do so. This alone doesn’t grant special skills, it just allows the character the ability to grow. He is now ready for the next level! Doing this can lead to sever problems if we don’t apply logic. For instance, a character who satisfies his XP requirements while in the city will have more options then one who does so while battling his way through a dungeon crawl. We always have to ask ourselves if this is something that can be obtained by practice, or if it is something that must be learned through time. We as DM’s and Players must look at our environment and our past to see exactly what our leveling up options are.

Hit Points

Our experience does make us more skilled at seeing stuff coming, and knowing how to avoid it. The hit point works with your armor class. A highly skilled character is more skilled at avoiding grievous bodily harm then a less skilled one.

I suppose that it is possible for sudden bonus hp to take effect immediately, however we had to do something truly heroic before it does. If we slay a boss or a creature stronger then us, then we have completed this requirement, however if you got this new level from fighting lesser individuals, you’ll have to wait.

Hit Points can be gained above ground by boasting to others about your fighting ability. Telling stories ourselves, a fellow character boasting of your ability, or even an NPC bard singing of you as a hero can gain you the extra hp that leveling up has afforded you.


Thac0 is, of course, your ability to hit armor class zero. It makes hitting your enemy easier. This one is automatic, it comes from your experience of watching an enemy and knowing how they will move to avoid you.

Saving Throws

This ability is also automatic, it is our ability to avoid and endure situations based on our experience, thus it is a natural ability.

Weapon Proficiencies

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. Depending on the character, and how a player is playing it, determines exactly what kind of WP is available to him. A warrior who is fighting with an Axe and wishes to specialize in it should be allowed to do so. So should a character who has used a weapon that he isn’t proficient with. By using it, he has been practicing. A character can also state that they are practicing with a weapon in their downtime-- if, in fact, they are getting downtime. A character who has spent his entire level in a dungeon isn’t getting any downtime to practice. He also must own the weapon that he is wishing to be proficient in.

A character can also learn a new proficiency from someone how is proficient in the weapon to begin with. This can be training with a fellow PC, or paying an NPC to teach you. Warriors wishing to specialize in a weapons group, or a specific fighting style must take time off of adventuring and pay a master to teach him this skill.

Training can also be extended to fulfilling ones ability to improve their THAC0, especially if the party has too much money, the DM can relieve them of it by insisting that they must pay a specific amount before they improve it. It would also make Leveling up more difficult as a Character of 10th level must actually seek out a warrior of 11th level before they can receive the improved THAC0. In this way, we can keep the dice in our favor for longer, which does improve the challenge of the game in the long run.

Non-Weapon Proficiencies

A misunderstood concept. All characters can, say, light a fire, but a PC who is proficient in lighting fires can light one with wet wood and under trying circumstances. Some NWP can be obtained by simply practicing, while others require skills that must be learned. This is up to the DM, and is totally a logical decision. Skills open up to the character could depend upon culture and up bringing. If you don’t know if a skill should be available for free, ask the Player how they would know how to do this in the first place.

Skills that require teaching should cost money, and some time away from adventuring. Some NWP require more then one slot. Armorer for instance, requires 2 slots. The first slot must be paid for with cash as you’ll need to study under an actual professional. The second slot can be then filled through practice. Of course a PC armorer will never have the skills of professional armorers, however they will be able to maintain their own armor and with the right tools, manufacture their own.

Naturally, for trade type NWPs, you’ll need to have access to somebody who can teach you the basics. Other things must be learned through trial and error, if a character attempts to perform an action that they aren’t proficient in, they can write it down on their sheet, even if they fail! Later, when they get another slot they can easily add it to any of these abilities to become proficient in it.

Also, I’d like to point out that the Slots listed in the PHB are just suggestions. Sometimes you as the DM can judge that they have enough time on their hands to acquire a bonus slot, for instance if a party has to spend a few months on a ship, or some other activity that will be able to afford them time to practice a new skill, then they should always be allowed to do this.

Class Skill Abilities

The rule of thumb here is that in order to access benefits of leveling up, one must find the proper teacher. A teacher who is 5th level can train all levels below him, but won’t be able to train a 6th level character.

Warriors: This class is already covered above. If a soldier sees lots of action, improvement could be immediate, or require catering to his ego, or studying under a higher level warrior.

Wizard: This class already forces this rule. New spells must be researched in laboratory conditions, and written in a spell book. Spellbooks must be purchased and constructed, first spell requires acquiring the proper components, after the spell is learned, the components are usually considered to always be on the wizard. Gaining access to higher level spells could either be natural, or require further training by a properly leveled teacher. Cost of training should be expensive and time consuming. A suggestion is 500GP per spell level, plus 1 week per spell level.

Priest: Spells are acquired through meditation, so this handles itself. WP’s however need training as described. THAC0’s are only improved by learning from either a fellow priest or a warrior with the appropriate level.

Rogue: Abilities can either be placed on skills that you have used regularly, or you can buy training from a thief who has more points dedicated to a specific skill then you do. If you want to put 15% points towards your Open Locks score, then you must find a thief who has at least 15% points above your current skill level; if they only have 10% points, then that is the maximum that you can learn from that character.

Improving a thief’s fighting skills requires either a fellow thief or a warrior of the appropriate level.

Active Training

A character who fails to fully max out may or may not had missed the opportunity. Proficiency slots should always stay open, but things like THAC0 should not be. If a warrior misses an opportunity to increase his 3rd level THAC0, and obtains 4th level, that opportunity will be forfeited because a character can only gain 1 THAC0 point per level.

Potentially, this can improve role-playing opportunities, but of course this will depend on your players. Some would get a kick out of this, while others would leave the game and of course we don’t want this to happen. This is an extreme of how you can run this, finding a happy medium is still important, and again! This system won’t work for all campaigns, especially ones where the action is non-stop and the characters never get any breaks to do their trainings. Good luck!


Zachary Houghton said...

Some really cool ideas for changing it up!

Right now, we're using Arms Law in our heavily houseruled Rolemaster Camapaign, which gives us a lot of excitement already. But we are harsh with fumbles and generous with the crits--and try to be very descriptive!

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