Books as Treasure

I’ve talked about non-weapon proficiencies before, I toyed with the idea of spending 6 months doing something automatically qualifies one to add a bonus NWP, but I don’t think now that that is such a good idea. NWP indicate some kind of mastery. A person with horsemanship can do things with a horse that would be impossible by the normal layman, thus, six months really isn’t that long of a time to achieve mastery. Perhaps, with free NWP, the amount of slots required should be doubled. A guy who spends an amount of time which satisfies the DM, the Dungeon Master can award a point, or half a point depending on how you want to think about it.

Penalties are multiplied by four (x4) for folks who are not proficient in a specific skill, however if an expert is present, this improves ones chances of succeeding, penalties will only be doubled if a WIS check is successful. Half a point will give you a bonus, if no expert is present, you can make an attempt at x2, or if a professional is present, you will do your checks as if you yourself had the NWP.

Of course, this assumes that the NWP in question normally requires only 1 slot. If the NWP takes more, then this number is also doubled, and this skill cannot be attempted until you have at least half of the points required. Skills that do not require an ability check are completely open to the DM’s personal interpretation if they can be applied or not, even if an expert is present.

If, when a player wishes to spend a natural slot on a skill which he has been awarded a bonus Prof., he can either replace the prof. slot and eliminate the bonus point system, or use the bonuses to achieve true proficiency, which again, is open to the interpretation of the DM on a personal basis because not all NWP are treated the same & breaking them down simply makes this rule more difficult to use at the table.


I am a reader, as I bet you that all players of D&D are. I collect many many books, and have learned much from them. Placing books in a personal living quarters tells a lot about the person who lives in the space. They also add color to the world in which you are describing. Naturally we don’t want to get over-board, giant libraries full of millions of books make a wonderful setting, but is this practical in a world which has no printing press?

I think that it is safe to assume that all books are written by hand. Any pictures or illustrations were completed by artists, and this makes them very expensive. A large hall full of books would indicate a very very wealthy (or brutal) owner. Books are treasure, even the non-magical variety. These books do qualify as Art Objects, books came in all shapes and sizes, from small pamplets to giant tomes which required 2-3 people to carry. They were encrusted with precious metals and jewels, and we can use this to determine what in fact is in these books.

Practical books are still worth a ton of money because they have been personally penned by a master. Books regarding topics such as mining, woodland survival, ancient history, or what-have-you, would provide a accurate picture of how to go about mastering these skills. Of course, this requires the user to know how to read.

How do we actually go about using this? Well, there are two ways. A person with a book can use the information within the book to perform the skills inside. Before this can be done, the players reading skill must be checked, if this is passed a wisdom check is in order. If any of these checks are failed, the DM has to decide how bad the effects will be. Perhaps it just means that the proficiency was failed, this can either have no effect or an adverse effect. If both checks are successful, the player can make the proficiency skill check, depending on the difficulty, it can have a penalty applied, again, up to the discretion of the DM.

The other way to use this is by allowing the player to use the book to give him the NWP once he’s earned a slot. This is assuming that the character is reading the book in his down time. This will save money on training, and it makes sense too. One of the most common complaints is the level up process in regards to NWP. One day the player wakes up and he suddenly knows everything about the weather! Granted, it isn’t totally realistic, but I think that it is a step in the right direction for folks who struggle with this logic.

Personally, I can see how this can come in handy to the Dungeon Master. If you are planning something which requires a specific skill, we can use books to perhaps put it into their hands. But books can provide more then just NWPs, through books we can really specialize our campaigns.


Through books, we can give the players hints at what is going on. Say they are going to delve deep into the forgotten temple of some long extinct civilization, selling them a book can help you give them facts which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to ascertain on their own, which in turn, can strengthen your story.

Legends also can be learned this way, of course the books won’t get it all right, but it will give hints. The ancient tale of King Edward slaying the dragon Ilnihtan, the dragon was an evil green dragon, and now the land and water appears to be poisoned once again, could this be related?

Vampires, ghosts, witches, any monster we can dream of may have a book which the characters can find, and these books will be full of superstitions, wards, weaknesses and strengths of the creatures.

It doesn’t take much of the stretch of the imagination to see the unexploited potential that books can have with just a little bit of cleverness. Of course books also present some problems. Clerics and Mages can obtain the Reading/Writing NWP for 1 slot, however Fighters and Rogues must spend 2 slots to obtain it, but I think that this really depends upon your milieu. A learned society would offer this proficiency to all of its people, especially many elven societies. One must ponder how literate the region is, perhaps in some higher cultures where learning is important, Reading and Writing would be a basic skill which would be free to those characters who hail from them.

We also must remember them when bad things happen. Books require great care, especially old books, which wizards and clerics would be seeking to obtain their NWP. Thankfully (depending on how you look at it), the DMG has a handy dandy saving throw chart for paper vs. all kinds of terrible conditions which adventurous souls put themselves and their property through. A fireball or submerging in grimy sewer sludge could easily destroy a book if the proper precautions are not taken, but as the old saying goes: The Dungeon Master Giveth, and the Dungeon Master Taketh Away.


Brooser Bear said...

I think that the progression in NWP is not linear. The idea of NWP is further to define the character, but you don't do a proficiency check to make something ordinary happen. You don't roll a check to fix a flat tire on a car. You roll a check when the fuel injector is broken and you don't have another one and you have proficiency as a mechanic. This is important as the adventure will either progress on foot or in a car. Exampe of an unskilled proficiency check: Thief breaks hand. Players try to set the broken bone or at least splint it. Everyone seen splints done on TV shows, some may have had a first aid class or one of the group will be an EMT. You think it will make a difference as to level? Thief will either be walking and semi functional or screaming in pain and useless.

Proficiency improvement is not about six months. Let's say proficiency as a carpenter. Level 1 (Novice) will be guy grew up in a carpenter's house. Level 2 (Apprentice), the guy worked as a carpenter before adventuring. Level 3 (Journeyman) will require the guy to work as a carpenter betwen adventures, Level 4 (Foreman) will take 5-10 years (a while for the player). Level 5 (Master Craftsman) might not even be reached and will require quitting adbenturing or may be out of reach for the player character. What does it mean for the Player Character? Let's say it's night, it's raining and the party stands near a ruined cabin. At Level 0 if there are all the tools, ropes, hammers and nails, players might improvise a roof, that will keep them out of direct rain. At level 1 (can competently perform straightforward repairs if all the materials are available), given time and conditions, the guy will fix the roof if there is a roof left. At Level 2(Can make and repair own tools, can prepare the building materials ), if there is a roof left, the guy will make it dry in the house given time, tools, and materials, and if there is no roof, shelter will be improvised. At Level 3 (can make.improvise own effective tools as necessary, can start work from scratch and repair structures), the guy will make viable shelter (dry enough and still enough for the mage to open delicate parchments and study them). At Level 4 (Can plan structural work and direct others) The guy can get the other party members involved, clear out the ruin and rebuilt a cabin over the four stone walls. Level 4, Definitely level 5 will use the party's equipment to ceate necessary carpentry tools and will make construction marerials out of the envirnment.

In my time, I figured out four or five different skill types (tradecraft, above; knowledge, physical skills etc) and they work and developed differently, but the key idea is to limit the skill checks to crtiical moments in the adventure. The guy funbles Rope Use skills and the rope will come lose, someone will fall. Stuff like that.

Another thing is that I use skill points according to the AD&D 2nd Ed Skills and Powers, and since the skils are grouped by abilities, playesr can use their ability bonuses as additional skill ponts for those particular skils. It's really not a lot, unless someone wants to play a Paladin or a Monk, since I don't let people roll superheroes, and a good skill system really helps define plain old fighters (they have their own combat/battle- field skills not available to others).

Another thing I toyed with but never developed was the notion of "Life Skills": Take sum of all the character abilities and divide by six. That's charcater's "Ki". The lower the key, the more points charcaters get towards "Common sense skills" - While knights will starve and freeze in the winter field, a lowly all sixes and eights peasant will find more opportunities for survival in terms of food and warm shelter.

Tacoma said...

On books, be careful. Say you have a library full of dumb books like military rolls and census data. And one nice book on mineralogy. Someone casts Erase on a census book and Copy to make it a duplicate of the mineralogy book. Suddenly they've doubled the valuue of the good book.

On proficiencies, I've found that getting a new proficiency is often of much greater value than gaining +1 to an existing one. So you could say that if someone takes time off of adventuring, devoting themselves primarily to learning about one proficiency, they can get a +1 to the check for every full 6 months spent.
So someone with above-average ability score (say 13) will succeed 65% of the time. But after three years of dedicated practice he would succeed 80% of the time.
Caveat: if you're adventuring you aren't practicing any one skill - you're adventuring instead. Yes you might be riding your horse a lot, or tying knots all the time when you camp, but it doesn't count. If you're a lenient DM you might let everyone choose a skill they're practicing in their off time while adventuring and let it count as half-time spent.

But if you go there you might as well make THAC0 and spellcasting level tied to the proficiency system and have the "time spent" be the advancement mechanic.

Anonymous said...

@Tacoma-On proficiencies, I've found that getting a new proficiency is often of much greater value than gaining +1 to an existing one

See here I disagree with you. In a previous campaign spent in Ravenloft, specifically the Masque of the Red Death, I was playing a medium. Mediums are more or less equal to clerics in normal campaigns. During the campaign, I was introduced to a certain person by the name of Abraham Van Helsing. I had spent some time with this individual, he gave me a book on ghosts, which tied into one of my NWP's. This bumped up the skill and made me even more proficient in my area of study, which came in quite handy later on in the campaign.

What I'm getting at is, even though it may be in your NWP, it doesn't necessarily mean you're a master at it. The more points you spend in it, the better. Take for instance swimming. If you have only spent the one slot in swimming, it means you can keep yourself from drowning for the most part. However, the more slots that are spent, the better a persons chances would be of surviving swimming across a waterway with a swifter current. I know plenty of people that can swim, but they don't have the same knowledge as say a life guard would. Obviously when building a character in the beginning, it can be more beneficial to just gain more proficiencies, but then again it also depends on the type or character. Say for instance a person was playing a thief, and one wanted to make that thief a traveling entertainer. Why wouldn't it make sense to put extra slots in juggling and tumbling NWP's? The extra slots in juggling could mean the difference between someone being able to just juggle three balls and flaming swords.

Sure, placing those extra slots on any one NWP does limit the number of NWP's you have, but it makes what you have even better.

RipperX said...

I find how others use NWP are interesting, because the rules regarding them are rather wanting, and up to much interpretation.

I know that I use both Secondary Skills and NWP, which technically are apposed to each other. The Secondary Skills were used to ease folks into the NWP systems, and supposed to be ignored once you've fully picked them up, but I find that this helps tell us what the character did before adventuring, and the skills granted by them are automatic.

Proficiencies are something that we use to tailor our adventurers to the people playing them. I strive to keep these things relevant. Nothing is worse then picking a cool NWP and never getting a chance to use it.

Good heads up on the "Copy" spell Tacoma! That is excellent practical advice :)

Brooser Bear said...

A Library should be a challenge to a DM! I got 2000 books at home. How many books an evil wizard lording over an area have? And if players really wanted to rip it apart, the local area knowledge, the history, the bestiary and the arcane arts! To be realistic, a good library in a high level stronghold will give away a DMs world. Tme, dust, mice and water damage destoying 99.9% of the library can only go so far.

And how about a librray ta a local Wizard's Guils? Even if does require 5K gp/yr membership to gain access, eventually the party wizard will get the dough and he pretty much gains access to DMs notebook.

I have never used a treasure map in the game, but I have used books and diaries to advance the back story.

With regards to skills, I LOOOOVE the system from Runequest: Evey time use of the skill brings success, DM marks that skill. At the end of adventure (or a period of study and training), the player rolls %ile dice versus his skill. If he beats it, s/he gains 1d6-2 percentage point. Say you got Horseback Riding at 26%. You used the skill and ran somebody in an adventure. At the end you roll the dice and if you roll 27 or higher, you skill grows by 1 to 4 percent. Sounds easy, eh, but what if you an accomplished rider with a skil if 87 or 93%. You get to roll for improvement ONCE per advneture (period of action brokn by several days of rest) regardles of hom many times you get to succeed using that skill.

That system lends itself nicely to teachers, masters, and instructors: Teacher has to be of a higher skill level than a student, spendss time (and takes money) to train the student, Use interplay of roleplayers and Charisma checks to establish Rapport, Wisdom checks from both to see if they establish, if they connect in communication, and finally the tecaher makes the skill roll. Together, hese three will either add (or subtract) from the student's roll to see if s/he improves in that skill. To stimulate the student/master relationship, the Charisma check (modified by alignment) is only done onc and either adds or subtracts. The Wisdom check is done every time the teacher or student advance in level or change. If they connect again, the higher of the two WISDOM bonuses is kept if th kept in touch and is lost if the student/teacher drift apart. The difference in skill level between teacher and student is used as a bonus/penalty o the teacher's roll. What the teacher makes or fails his/her roll by is the bonus/penalty to the student's roll to learn. Charisma check is done regualrly as a reaction roll. To connect, student rols against teacher's WIS and vice versa. Student just needs to make the roll to connect, but the teacher gets to subtract his WIS bonus when rolling against the student's WIS to see if the teacher had gotten through to the student.

This seems convoluted, but it quanifies and formalizes the odds of success/failure in a long term Master/Student relationship.

Hope you find it useful!

Post a Comment


Contact me at

Search This Blog

Blog Archive