Occupations

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MinusInnocence
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Occupations

In d20 Modern, your character starts with an occupation, which is sort of a suite of augmentations to your class skills, a little bump to your starting Wealth modifier and maybe access to a bonus feat. It is meant to incorporate not just your character's work history but more of a general sense of his or her past before the campaign begins at 1st level overall. It's kind of the first decision you make about your character after deciding on which kind of Hero you are (Strong, fast, etc, since all the playable classes are based on the six primary ability scores) and presents you with a choice between enhancing the skills and reinforcing a playstyle that your character would already be well-suited for, or shoring up perceived weaknesses to allow you to pick up a skill or two you might not normally be able to put ranks in.

I adapted something like this for an all-dwarf Pathfinder game I ran a few years ago inspired by Norse mythology. One of the things that makes the Occupation system in Modern essential is the fact that the default assumption about the setting is that it takes place in the real world and everyone will be playing a human.  Of the playable races from D&D, the human is easily one that provides a foundation you can build pretty much anything on. But it still helps to spice things up a bit to further differentiate one character from the next, especially if they're both playing the same class. This was doubly important in an all-dwarf game because dwarves have such a strong sense of cultural identity. A dwarf is a dwarf is a dwarf, in very broad strokes; so in addition to tweaking some of the stuff that might discourage someone from playing, say, a paladin or sorcerer, I thought I would implement my version of the Occupation system.

In addition to letting each character take a single level in a NPC class (Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner or Expert), which narrowed the field in terms of which starting traits they could pick from, everyone had to decide at the beginning of character creation what kind of life their character had while growing up. Dwarven society in that campaign was rigidly caste-based, with your clan's social standing making a lot of decisions for you. So if you wanted to play someone from one of the high-and-mighty families that make up the upper crust, you could do that, and it would net you a bonus feat as well as some other modifiers. But people from lower socioeconomic brackets might respond to you differently than they would one of their peers. At the other end of the spectrum, you could play a clanless exile, but there were obvious consequences for that beyond what is hard-wired into the rules.

These two additions to the character creation process helped to flesh out some of the most important aspects about the PCs' identities - where they came from and what kind of life they led before deciding to become an adventurer. It's not strictly necessary for most games and I don't necessarily think that every bit of minutiae about your character's personality or identity needs to be quantified with game mechanics. But in this case nobody playing ever thought for a second that one character in the party was just like someone else, which is pretty cool since they were all four feet tall with big bushy beards and carrying axes and warhammers.

Darker

I've used a version of some of the stuff found in the Experts d20 book.
You can get an updated copy here: http://paizo.com/products/btpy8257?Experts-v35

The rules and all in here are pretty damn interesting in even making a non-adventurer a fun person to play.

MinusInnocence
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That actually sounds really cool. I'll definitely check it out.

Talanall
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Convergence Tasks from that supplement sound interesting. I'm not sure if I'm down with the idea of adding dozens of new skills to 3.5, though, which is also promised further up the list of contents.

Profession is already really sketchy in the core rules. It could be anything from Profession (accountant) to Profession (miner). I've seen a lot of WotC supplements call for Profession (sailor) checks to helm ships. Stuff like that. Craft isn't quite as bad because there are relatively few temptations to make it touch other parts of the game, but it's close.

Honestly, I would prefer to see the codification of a limited number of Craft and Profession skills. Like, do we really need Profession (accountant) and Profession (scribe)? Stick them under a catch-all like Profession (clerk) that you can use to cover everybody who does office/correspondence/recordkeeping work. I think the same is valid regarding Craft (blacksmithing), Craft (weaponsmithing), Craft (armorsmithing), and Craft (metalworking). You really only need a few.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
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deadDMwalking
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Skills are a funny beast in 3.x. They're certainly far to fiddly. What's the difference between 4 ranks and a +1 ability score and 5 ranks and a +0 ability score? There's no difference in absolute ability, but there sure as heck is a difference as far as qualifying for Prestige classes. What does 23 ranks in a skill even mean?

I'd really like it if they had opted for novice/trained/expert with a fixed bonus (+0/+5/+10) or something similar. Expert could cost '2 skill points'. It'd make some things much easier.

Regarding specific skills, they already recognize that 'speak language' isn't one that you get noticeably better at. That is, you can't spend 23 ranks in it and be William Shakespeare. I think they should have done more along those lines. If you're 'trained' or 'expert' in Use Rope, you should just be able to reliably knot something and it applies to the DC to escape. If you're an expert, you shouldn't be able to roll really badly and make the ropes easy to escape - it should be a fixed DC based on you being an expert.

In any case, with 'general skills', having backgrounds would be helpful. If you can say 'my background applies' you should be able to roll as if you were trained in the skill. If your background doesn't apply, you can't (unless you took ranks in it). So a sailor or cowboy that doesn't have the skill 'use rope' might still be able to make a check, but a clerk wouldn't.

Darker

deadDMwalking wrote:

Regarding specific skills, they already recognize that 'speak language' isn't one that you get noticeably better at. That is, you can't spend 23 ranks in it and be William Shakespeare. I think they should have done more along those lines.


Not completely true. The example here likely would have been covered under the Performance (Oratory) skillset.
deadDMwalking
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Even if that's true, allowing someone to take 23 ranks in Oratory is probably a waste. Unless you are the 'bard class', a high perform score affects your daily earnings (up to 18 gp) but I find it difficult to imagine that a 20th level character is going to care about the money they make that way. A lot of skills ought to be more binary - if you have the skill you can do x/y/z.

Darker

I like the tumble skill because its setup that way already. If you have 5 ranks, then you get better AC when going defense. I agree, more skills should be that way.

MinusInnocence
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The way skills like Craft, Profession and Perform work also gives us some insights into what it's like to be an NPC in a D&D setting. There's an attempt here, and whether or not it is successful is debatable, to simulate a living, breathing world. Maybe being able to advance to 23 ranks in Profession (farmer) or Perform (oratory) isn't exclusively for our benefit. Indeed, from a gameplay perspective, those skills could have probably been removed from the game altogether. Sure, some Prestige Classes require you to have X ranks in Craft (widget) but they just as easily could have not been written that way. This is mostly background stuff, as far as I can tell.

deadDMwalking
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I'd argue that having 20th level farmers is actually a bad thing for the game. You should be able to be 'world's best' at a non-adventuring career at a very low level. The man who forges Excalibur should be a really good smith, not a really good warrior. But a 20th level expert is still better than a 7th level Fighter by a pretty big margin.

You should be able to become a true 'expert' without gaining a lot of additional hit dice.

Darker

MinusInnocence wrote:

The way skills like Craft, Profession and Perform work also gives us some insights into what it's like to be an NPC in a D&D setting. There's an attempt here, and whether or not it is successful is debatable, to simulate a living, breathing world. Maybe being able to advance to 23 ranks in Profession (farmer) or Perform (oratory) isn't exclusively for our benefit. Indeed, from a gameplay perspective, those skills could have probably been removed from the game altogether. Sure, some Prestige Classes require you to have X ranks in Craft (widget) but they just as easily could have not been written that way. This is mostly background stuff, as far as I can tell.

Back when I used to DM alot, I had houseruled most skills in this category to provide some benefits to adventurers. Basically, I treated them as a collection of skill uses. For example, Profession (sailor) could be used to mimic rope use, but only in skill test requiring tying common sailing knots. Profession (farmer) could be used in place of some nature knowledge skills or survival skills to predict weather. Any one with a craft skill could appraise what types of things they made. I think it also was setup so that these skill use collections could either be used by using the profession skill, or you could get a +2 synergy bonus if you have 5 ranks AND the other skill. So someone with 5 ranks of sailor and tying a nautical knot could choose to either make a use rope skill check and get a +2 bonus or just roll a profession check (with no bonus).

MinusInnocence
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I kind of liked the change made in 4E where people stopped spending points upgrading their skills altogether. The kinds of skills you were really good at was still based on your class, which sort of makes sense when viewed through the lens of, "this is what the game designers think a Fighter is supposed to be like, and this is the basket of skills a fighter, trained anywhere and by anyone, brings to the table;" but they just got better over time as a function of your character level. I think even a system like this one would benefit from something like an Occupation or origin system granting freebies to the class skill list, sort of like multiclassing (which was also extremely streamlined in 4th edition).

Talanall
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deadDMwalking wrote:

I'd argue that having 20th level farmers is actually a bad thing for the game. You should be able to be 'world's best' at a non-adventuring career at a very low level.

I disagree. "World's best" is a very high degree of exceptionality. Best in a city or region, less so.

Quote:
The man who forges Excalibur should be a really good smith, not a really good warrior.
I'll come back to this in a minute.

Quote:
But a 20th level expert is still better than a 7th level Fighter by a pretty big margin.

This is not true. Exp 20 has seven feats, BAB +15, Base Fort/Ref/Will +6/+6/+12 and 20d6 HD (unmodified average of 35 hp). That's good, but we don't know what his ability scores look like. Most likely, they're going to be tilted toward mental abilities because most of the skills that an expert would need are based on Int, Wis, and Cha. His base abilities will be an arrangement of either three 10s and three 11s, or 13 12 11 10 9 8, since you can use either one for the non-elite array.

Ftr 7 has the same number of feats, BAB +7, and base saves +5/+2/+2. 7d10 HD (unmodded average 43 hp). The fighter also has better proficiencies for weapons and armor, and he'll start with an elite array arranged from 15 14 13 12 10 8.

We don't really know enough about the expert to know if he'd be a real match for a 7th level fighter. But probably not; he's likely not to be as strong, dexterous, or durable as the fighter, and he'll have to spend three feats to wear heavy armor, and then another feat to use even one martial or exotic weapon. Meanwhile, the fighter is applying his feats to a variety of dirty tricks that the expert won't be able to match. The expert will almost certainly lose unless you assign him magical equipment at the full NPC allowance for his level (he could have up to 220,000 gp worth of gear, which potentially covers a lot of weaknesses). Even then, he's probably going to get hurt badly.

On his own, he is far less capable in battle than a CR 7 dire bear. A lone 7th-level fighter should be able to take on the bear and win, although it's not a guaranteed victory (it's really pretty much a 50/50 shot). If you gave the expert and the fighter both masterwork examples of anything they're proficient with with (and nothing else), the fighter would mop the floor with him. When you fight an exp 20 (CR 19), at least half of the encounter is actually a battle against his gear.

So the expert is not actually a good warrior at all. He isn't as good a warrior as the fighter half his level, even. He's merely better equipped to such a degree that it makes up for his personal shortcomings, and because he can't cast spells, this is LITERALLY because of magic that he found or bought.

Quote:

You should be able to become a true 'expert' without gaining a lot of additional hit dice.

You can. If you look at the DCs associated with the skills that actually generate most NPCs' income, a 1st-level expert with max ranks and skill focus in whatever he does for a living is going to be able to hit the DCs he needs by taking 10, and do it reliably, unless he's got Int or Wis below 10.

Once that same NPC has worked as an expert for 20 or 30 years and reached exp 3, he'll have the skill ranks, tools, and feats to hit DC 20 without really trying, which means that he can make masterwork goods.

Effectively, this guy is a master at what he does. By the time we're talking about a level 20th expert, we're dealing with a guy who has one foot in the grave because he's in his 90s, but he's been making glasswork or tailoring garments or whatever since he was literally about ten years old. So yeah, maybe he's got maxed ranks in Craft (tailor), Skill Focus in same, and a full set of masterwork scissors, pins, needles and dressmaker's dummies. He doesn't even have to roll to make whatever passes for "masterwork" clothing.

Is he the best tailor in the world? Well, who knows? He knows a lot about tailoring, but from the perspective of someone who is buying clothing, does that really matter? The only thing that really distinguishes him from an expert 3 is that the expert 20 can make an outfit of royal garments in three days instead of the five days it takes any other master tailor.

Sure, other tailors may speak of the old man in hushed tones as the dark lord of fashion because he's 40% faster than normal people. But it doesn't actually matter, in terms of how good his work is. If you use the Craft skill to generate income directly, by running a business as a tailor, then this translates to the old guy making an average of 21 gp per week, versus 11 gp/week for the guy at 3rd level or around 9/week for the guy who is at 1st level.

And note here that we're really talking about "master" level craftsmen in all of these examples. They all have maxed ranks for their level and a feat dedicated to the job, plus an assumed starting ability of Int 13.

If you take away the feat and just give someone Int 10 and 1 rank of Craft, he still comes out with an average of 5.5 gp/week. It's just that this guy is spending all his time making the simplest goods possible. Let's call him an apprentice.

Arguably, all of these people are experts; they are performing an activity professionally, and they are making from 7 to 26 times as much money per week as a someone who does untrained labor at 1 sp/day.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
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In a sense, you've made my point. Why should should someone be allowed to invest 23 skill ranks when you can do everything you need to be 3rd level? Novice/Trained/Expert works better at what you're trying to emulate.

Talanall
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I don't think it's really important for the sorts of things that most NPCs need to do. Investing more ranks in Craft, Profession, or Perform just means they make a better living and can produce goods more quickly. It's largely invisible to the players, and as a DM I don't really give a damn because there's really no scenario where it's going to obtrude itself into gameplay unless I want to manufacture an excuse for the PCs to be delayed.

It still matters for things that very powerful PC-classed NPCs get up to, though. Anybody with a +5 check in Craft (sculpting) can take 10 to succeed on the check to create a clay golem's body, for example (it's only DC 15).

The golem's body costs something like 3,000 gp, though. That 3rd-level master craftsman is going to need three months to finish the work. The crusty old 20th-level expert will get it done in about a week and a half. This applies to most constructs in the core rules.

If the construct's creator is able to cast fabricate AND has the necessary ranks in the appropriate Craft skill for the specific thing he wants to build, then you can hand-wave it for some of the basic kinds of construct, but practically speaking he's likely to need to either hire somebody or stick to one kind of construct. I don't usually think of PCs as being likely to build constructs, although that's also encouraged in the Eberron setting. This is mostly something that NPCs are going to do, since PCs move around too much to want to mess with expensive guards and servants. But it illustrates why an NPC should be "allowed" to take 23 ranks in skills that most PCs wouldn't want to pursue.

Similar concerns are pertinent to Handle Animal (to rear or train exotic mounts), although in that instance I think PCs might actually want to buy the results. It still takes months or years, though, so it's impractical for most PCs to actually focus on. In regular play, a druid or ranger PC might need to gain 4 to 6 ranks of Handle Animal, just so that he can give commands in battle without having to roll.

Literally the only reason to bother taking more ranks is if you're an NPC who trains creatures for a living.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
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To get back to the example of Craft (tailor) for a minute, textiles are a good showcase for what bothers me about Craft skills because, as I said, players really don't care about them most of the time. Craft really isn't there for the players; it's there for the DM.

If I want to how many artisans' outfits are for sale in Golden Sheaves, I can find out easily; I divide the GP Limit (200 gp) by the cost of the outfit (1 gp) and get 200. There are 200 artisans' outfits for sale. That represents about 12 days' worth of work by whatever NPC is the village's tailor, if you assume that one of the 669 inhabitants of the village is a 1st-level commoner or expert with max ranks in the Craft (tailor) skill, Int 12 or 13, and Skill Focus. Which is a pretty fair assumption; farmers and other people who do a lot of heavy outdoor labor are rough on their clothes. There'd be a market for it. In reality, it's likely that the tailor only made some of these garments; some of them would be the handiwork of amateurs and part-timers in the community.

Anyway, the craftsperson is buying supplies and materials from somewhere, amounting to about 3.3 sp per outfit. So in turn, the village must have enough goods on hand to make 600 more outfits. I might actually care about this number as a DM, because the Mereflow Valley is looming on the edge of a war. Clothes are an important bit of the logistics for warfare.

But why not, let's go a level deeper. Who's making that cloth? A weaver, right? That's a material good, so that's a Craft (weaving) check, probably at DC 10. You need roughly 4 to 6 yards of cloth for a full suit of clothing, so let's say 5 yards per outfit. So call it 7 cp/yard. A good weaver can do something like 20 yards a day. Less if it's an amateur who's doing it part time for supplementary income. But it gets the point across.

I could keep abstracting this backward, doing the same for Craft (spinning), Profession (farmer), etc. until I get to sheared sheep and harvested linen, and work out how much you need, and how much land, and so on. But WHY would I do this?

I don't need three different Craft skills, a Profession skill, Handle Animal, etc. Craft (textile) will tell me as much as I'm ever likely to need as a DM. And it doesn't really matter from a PC's perspective, because arts and crafts are things that happen to other people.

Theoretically, a PrC somewhere might require 5 or 8 ranks of Craft (weaving) to become a member of the Spellweavers, who specialize in . . . I dunno. Storing spells in carpets woven from a dryad's pubic hair. Whatever. The Craft requirement for entry is mostly there for flavor, and to force the PC to sacrifice a few skill ranks away from something that he'll actually use.

Once or twice, I have actually seen very low-level or very high-level PCs use Craft skills. But literally only once or twice. I think I once annoyed the hell out of Arkenian by having a spellcaster with Craft (alchemy) use fabricate to manufacture a really unreasonable amount of alchemist's fire or acid. Mostly, Craft is something I use as a DM to field questions like Fixxxer's recent inquiry about getting Chuul's existing weapon coated with silver.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold