Monday, June 27, 2011

The Scoundrel, Part 9: Door Skills

On to door-related skills!

Lockpick: This won't be roleplayed out concretely at my table in the near future, and I want every class to be able to do this, and to have some chance of failure with it. Verdict: Skill (see, I told you there would be verdicts other than "Out.")

Force Door: This is, from what I understand, for when doors are stuck. I believe that, originally, characters had a 1/6 chance of forcing a door each time they attempted it, each attempt taking one turn. I don't see why stuck doors shouldn't, at their simplest, just require a Strength check, perhaps with a modifier, or maybe just the combined effort of more than one character with a sum of Strength scores above a certain number. I think this is more about strength than skill, though I'll admit that what little I know about forcing doors tells me that some amount of skill is involved. Verdict: Out

Notice Secret Door: This is passively noticing a secret door, an Elf ability in certain iterations of D&D. Like I mentioned with Notice Traps in my last post, I hate passive "Notice ________" checks because I hate forgetting to roll them, which I do. So I'm going the route of Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderlands and taking this ability away from even Elves. They can have perks that don't make me have to remember to roll secret dice behind the screen. Verdict: Out

Find Secret Door: This is actively searching for a secret door, usually along a stretch of wall a certain length long and usually taking a turn to search that stretch. I've had middling results with players making abstract decisions to examine the walls of a room, splitting the stretches of walls between them to make the job quicker so there would be less wandering monster rolls, or going over each others sections, to double-check their fellow PCs. That's making decisions about resources in play, and that's good, but this still rubs me the wrong way. I figure that roleplaying through secret doors is going to be more fun than that, and both Al and Courtney have provided tables that could just as easily be used for generating ideas for secret door mechanisms instead of disarming traps. Verdict: Out

Hear Noise Through Door: Success when listening through a door. I'm not sure exactly what this is other than putting your head up against a door and listening to see if you can hear any orcs playing cards or poking a prisoner in a cage with sticks or something. If so, I'm not sure why even thieves and demihumans would only get a 2/6 chance at beginning levels to be able to hear through a door. Any insight to this from my readers would be greatly appreciated. Until I'm told that I'm misunderstanding this, though, it seems to me like this should just be something where success is automatic for everyone. Verdict: Out

Have some insight into hearing noises through doors, or another one of these options? Think one of my verdicts is wrong? Let me know- I'm eager to learn more and, as with any good home-brewing, nothing's final here.


  1. Re: hear noise, I think the idea is that if there's a very loud sound going on behind a door then obviously the DM would just say that the PCs can hear it, without needing to roll. The 1 in 6 or 2 in 6 chance is rather for hearing quiet sounds -- a guard pacing up and down, the snoring of the sleeping duke, etc.

    I think part of the fun of having success be randomised is that it keeps the party guessing -- the thief's spent 2 turns listening at the door, and heard nothing, but does that really mean there's nothing there?

    That's my take on it anyway.

  2. I partly agree with Gavin, but I phrase it differently: Hear Noise isn't a skill roll, it's the chance that an otherwise silent monster, trap or trick just happened to make a noise loud enough for you to barely hear, so that you won't be surprised when you open the door.

    There's nothing explicit in the LBBs to support this interpretation, but there's implicit support in the Open Doors roll. Men & Magic has the 1-2 in 6 chance of opening a stuck door, but U&WA p 32 says that ten men can break down a door in 1 turn, no roll needed, and the time for breaking down doors in other situations should be judged by the GM. The only way to resolve these two seemingly-conflicting statements is to ditch the later assumption that the Open Doors roll is a skill roll: it's actually the chance that one person can kick open a stuck door on the first try. Otherwise, it takes a while to get through it -- maybe three men taking a full turn to heave several times against a stuck door, or multiple turns to chop through a locked door. And that means surprise is negated for any occupants of the room.

  3. Good calls so far, but I'd have to wonder, are you going to have any "Skills" left? heh. I'm at the point where I'm not sure if a specialist/thief/rogue class is needed if every class can do "everything".

  4. @Gavin: Hmm… I'll agree that randomness can be fun… I'm not sure how much this is really a skill that can improve with practice, though…

    @Talysman: I like your spin on things, though I'm not sure that's what was originally meant, since I don't see how an elf or thief listening at the door would cause a monster to be twice as likely to make a noise… but giving an otherwise silent monster a chance to goof up and make a noise is still better, in my mind, than the alternative. I may start doing this in my own games, depending on how many silent monsters I place and how often my players actually listen at doors.

    @Rev. Dak: I was starting to worry too, but looking at the remaining "candidates" I think I'm going to be including a lot more as either skills or abilities. I just happened to put the categories that get a lot of out verdicts at the front of the list.

  5. Hm I see what you mean that it's not necessarily something one can improve with practice. Elves could be naturally better at it, say, but yeah maybe just giving all others a flat chance would probably be fine.

  6. @Staples: it's not that monsters are twice as likely to make a noise when an elf (actually, any non-human) or thief listens; it's that the noise can be half as loud and an elf will still catch it. It's more like a base 2 in 6 chance a monster will make a noise, with a +1 difficulty for humans who aren't thieves.

  7. @Talysman: OK, I can see that. I guess the question then goes to how to fit listening at doors into this set up. It's not something that should really improve with practice, so it's out as a skill. I suppose I could make this an ability that comes with elves and is available to scoundrels… but for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, this still rubs me wrong… hmm…

  8. I just figured I'd mention that I do use that table to determine mechanisms for opening secret doors.