Mix & Match Abilitys Like A Pro

IN 1995 TSR PUT OUT A NEW BOOK called Player’s Option: Skills & Powers. I have seen folks call this book (and it’s companion books) the 3rd Edition, which it was at the time. Now folks call it worse names, e2.5.

I bought this book, and two more from the series, because apparently I had too much money at the time and desperately needed to be relieved of it. I never used them! I think that I weakly suggested to the party that maybe it would be fun to play with them, but they said a whole-hearty “NO!” and that was that. Well, we did use the Critical Hits charts until we decided that they were just to much work and not all that fun anyway.

In Skills & Powers, the writers told us that 6 ability scores just weren’t enough! According to them, we needed 19 of them. Nineteen of them! What the heck? How many pages does a single character need to be?

Now granted, TSR thought that they found gold here by pretending to come up with a point system. The new Ability Scores were not rolled up with the dice, but a player could add points to the sub-ability if he chose to. In all, I must say that I don’t find this idea all that terrible . . . Except for using points, and the part were it takes up valuable character sheet real estate, but the concept is cool!

My group was using a house rule for this kind of stuff years before this book came out. It wasn’t as advanced, and I’m not really sure where we got it from, but we had a problem with not being able to find stuff in the game, or not noticing something that the DM felt that we’d have a better chance of. We simply added our INT and our WIS scores together, and divided them by two and got a new number which we called Perception (Always round down). This was our fast and easy solution.

Is it realistic? No, but it is fast and better then nothing, and to this day we use it all the time.


Lots of heat goes on these things, and I think it is totally unfair. Sometimes I have been in situations were I had no idea what my character would do, or maybe I know what the best way to react would be, but my character probably didn’t. For situations like this, I have no problem with making an ability check.

There are two ways to make Ability checks. The standard way is to simply roll a d20 and any number below your ability means success. This is quick and easy-- and easy to pass if your character is exceptional. Granted, the DM will typically impose a modifier onto this role, depending on the difficulty of the task, but it is still quick and easy to make your rolls.

A different way, which yields the same odds, but much more random is to use the d100. Multiply your ability score by 5 and this will give you your percentage chance of success. This one isn’t so fast at first, but once you get used to it, it does make things more entertaining. We do have to remember to multiply the modifiers by 5 as well, but that is simple enough.


Often we can find a way to discover the odds of accomplishing a task though our regular Ability Scores, but sometimes, this just isn’t the route to go. For this we’ll be mixing and blending. Numbers have a way of making peoples jaws hit the floor, so I will refrain from using any of my infamously bad and ultra confusing examples. You can thank me by donating me large bags of cash!


Wanna ruin a players day? Enforce this nasty bugger on him. If we wanted to be real jerks, we could say that this is how many rounds you can attack before you start to get tired, but that is just too much work. Alternatively we can use this to determine how long a character can maintain max movement rate, how long a character can run before exhausting, stuff like that.

An example would be Putz the Thief decides that he is going to run away, and the guards at this time believe that it is also in their best interest to run after him. Lazy RIP Rule states: Standard NPC’s always have the score of 9. Thus their Stamina is also 9. Putz Stamina comes out to 11. All characters make the roles, highest roll that doesn’t go over their ability score wins.


Now, of course, this comes in handy if your character is in a tavern and a big oily man challenges you to a battle of the bodies in a macho pose-down, but a more usable tactic is utilizing your powerful physique to strike fear in the hearts of your enemy and perhaps inspire your own side.

Depending on how well you roll, and the whim of the DM, this can apply modifiers to either your armies attack roll for an amount of time, force a moral check for the enemy, and perhaps even lower their attack and damage rolls. Basically, what you are doing is acting like a macho monster, showing off your powerful physique and trying to scare the hell out of the other guy. A roll of one may be enough to scare the other side so bad that they lose interest in fighting you all together. Even a little guy can act like he has more power then what he has, thus we mix Strength with Charisma to determine your ability to pych-out your enemy.


This is not a replacement for THAC0, and isn’t used instead of it. Sometimes we want to do something which requires more skill then actual attacking. We can always use THAC0 for this role, but when a character can take their time, or want to hit a specific target, then we can make an aim check.

Called shots suck, every DM knows that and may disallow them entirely, but players love trying to do this. Before making a called shot, we can check the Aim ability before making the attack. We’ll also be using this for throwing items. If a warriors sword breaks, a player can quickly toss him a replacement blade with a successful aim. Playing keep away with a seeing eye and a hag can be fun. Sure we can use DEX, but in instances when it also requires a bit of INT, then we’ll use the aim.


Naturally this one can come in handy when doing dangerous feats that require balance, but in most cases DEX can cover all of this. If a character has a none weapon proficiency, then this is not a replacement for the roll listed. For example if a character chose to be proficient in Tightrope Walking, then he won’t be forced to use the balance check to do everything involved in performing the skill.

If a player is trying to walk on the top of a steep roof, and is approached by a group of soldiers also on the roof, then Balance can definitely become a factor, and we’ll be checking everybody’s balance A LOT! Also, if you take a hit from somebody or something that is way stronger then you are, your balance may become a factor, because we don’t want to fall down.


We don’t roleplay everything. The characters are assumed to be doing the chores that are required of them to practice there art, this also includes health. It is not so little known of a fact that the DM check to see if a disease has joined the party. Health is part of our day to day lifestyle which dictates how wisely we can avoid things that can make us sick.

In this method, if a disease or parasite is indicated, this forces a HEALTH check, failure indicates that you are diseased, but success means that you were exposed, however you were able to take care of it naturally. Depending on the roll, and the DM’s whim, a disease can be either shortened or nullified completely. We can also use this roll to get a bonus to healing naturally. Perhaps a successful check gives you a bonus point of +1 to +3?


This is a lot like muscle, and has the same benefits however it signifies great speed and agility. The fast and furious warrior who starts flipping his blade through the air, showcasing his magnificent fitness can force a moral check, and inspire his peers in the same way that a muscle-bound brute can insight terror in his enemies without even having to do anything.


Reason in this sense is your ability to talk your way out of a problem. It should be used in conjunction with actual role-playing, and is only used when you don’t know if you really succeeded or not.

Reason can also allow a character to describe something so that others may grasp the concept. For instance, if a trap was discovered, but it is undefeatable, then a good REASON check can teach others how to get across the trap without setting it off or getting injured by it (a bonus to their own checks).


Knowledge is overall intelligence mixed with wisdom. If you aren’t sure if a task requires Wisdom or Intelligence, then mix them up. This is also how we treated perception, or noticing things in the world around you that perhaps you missed. Using an advanced language with proper grammar is also the realm of knowledge. If something feels funny, make a knowledge check and perhaps get another clue as to what it could be. This can be imposed by either players or frustrated Dungeon Masters.


A party who is expecting an attack is harder to surprise, by using INTUITION we’ll still be surprised, but we’ll be able to keep our Armor Class when this may otherwise be restricted for a number of reasons. Intuition also can tell us who is around us, Friend or Foe but this depends upon the situation.


This one is important. We’ll add up all of the numbers and divide it by 4 to get our Willpower number. If we are captured and tortured for information, this requires WILLPOWER to keep the information to yourself. It also requires WILLPOWER to bully your own prisoners into revealing information. Some cases only one person will be checking, but in others, it will be a duel, the highest number rolled without going over is the winner of this battle of wills.


With good leadership we can improve our companies Morale rating, simple huh? This rating surpases the normal bonuses that we get for CHA, but only when we ask an NPC to do something. The better the role, the longer effect time it has, depending on the whim of the DM.


I personally have always hated this, we called it Comeliness, but it can give you a bonus when talking to the opposite sex. CHA doesn’t always automatically mean that you are pleasant to look at--Hell, look at Charlie Manson.

Naturally, this is enough fodder for all of the Anti-skill people to grumble about for a long time, and I can see where they are coming from, but still, when used sparingly and judiciously these sub-abilities can come in handy.


Chris McDowall said...

Sounds like a truly awful book, but an entertaining post!

Anonymous said...

Hey I just happened to stumble by via rpgbloggers and have to admit it's really an outstanding article. It's back to one of those useful things when you don't know what you want yours players to throw dice against and I'll definitely give it some thought, many thanks for sharing this!


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