Skills

In Conan the Roleplaying Game, all characters are selfsufficient, highly capable of turning their hands to just about anything. Though almost all specialise in particular areas of expertise, many also pick up certain skills along the way which might be useful for their roles as adventurers, such as sneaking about, clambering up clifffaces, spotting an assassin in the night and puzzling out the meanings of ancient rolls of parchment. A barbarian might not be quite so knowledgeable about religion as a priest; nonetheless, even a barbarian will probably pick up bits and pieces of information here and there if he is the typical cosmopolitan, observant adventurer depicted in the Conan stories.

For this reason, although all characters have to worry about class and cross-class skills when allocating skill points gained from their class, any bonus skill points gained through a high Intelligence are more flexible. These bonus skill points may be spent on_ any_ skill without penalty. In effect, all skills are treated as class skills for the various skill points gained through having a high Intelligence. This applies both at 1st level and at subsequent levels.

Purchasing Skills

If a Player buys a class skill, his character gets one rank (equal to a +1 bonus on checks with that skill) for each skill point. If you buy skills not on your class list (crossclass skills) with the skill points you gain from class, as opposed to bonus skill points from a high Intelligence, you must spend 2 skill points to get 1 rank. Character class descriptions indicate which skills can be purchased as class skills and how many skill points are gained when a character takes a level in that class.

A character’s maximum rank in a skill, whether class or cross-class, is your character level + 3.

Using Skills: To make a skill check, roll: 1d20 + skill modifier. The skill modifier is equal to skill rank + ability modifier + miscellaneous modifiers. This roll works just like an attack roll or a saving throw; the higher the roll, the better. Either a character is trying to match or exceed a certain Difficulty Class (DC), or he is trying to beat another character’s check result.

Skill Ranks: A character’s number of ranks in a skill is based on how many skill points he has invested in it. Many skills can be used even if the character has no ranks in them; this is called making an untrained skill check.

Ability Modifier: The ability modifier used in a skill check is the modifier for the skill’s key ability, that is, the ability associated with the skill’s use. The key ability of each skill is noted in its description.

Miscellaneous Modifiers: Miscellaneous modifiers include racial bonuses, armour check penalties and bonuses provided by feats, among others.

Using a Skill

When a character uses a skill, the Player makes a skill check to see how well he performs. The higher the result of the skill check, the better. Based on the circumstances, the result must match or beat a particular number (a DC or the result of an opposed skill check) for the check to be successful. The harder the task, the higher the number a Player needs to roll.

Circumstances can affect this check. A character that is free to work without distractions can make a careful attempt and avoid simple mistakes. A character who has lots of time can try over and over again, thereby assuring the best outcome. If others help him, the character may succeed where otherwise he would fail.

Skill Checks

A skill check takes into account a character’s training, which is represented by his skill rank, his natural talent, which is represented by the ability modifier and an element of luck, which is represented by the die roll. It may also take into account his race’s knack for doing certain things (a racial bonus), what armour he is wearing (armour check penalty) or a certain feat he possesses, among other things.

Skills The Difference Between Life and Death

To make a skill check, roll 1d20 and add the character’s skill modifier for that skill. The skill modifier incorporates the character’s ranks in that skill and the ability modifier for that skill’s key ability, plus any other miscellaneous modifiers that may apply, including racial bonuses and armour check penalties. The higher the result, the better the character performs. A natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure, unlike some combat rolls.

Difficulty Class Some checks are made against a Difficulty Class or DC. The DC is a number that is set using the skill rules as a guideline. A skill check must be equal to or higher than the DC in order to succeed.

Difficulty Class Examples

Difficulty (DC) Example (Skill Used)
Very Easy (0) Notice something large in plain sight (Perception)
Easy (5) Climb a knotted rope (Climb)
Average (10) Hear an approaching guard (Perception )
Tough (15) Rig a wagon wheel to fall off (Disable Device)
Challenging (20) Swim in stormy water (Swim) Formidable (25) Open an above-average lock (Disable Device)
Heroic (30) Leap across a 30-foot chasm (Acrobatics)
Nearly Impossible (40) Track a squad of nomads across hard ground after 24 hours of rainfall (Survival)

Trying Again

In general, a character can try a skill check again if he fails and can keep trying indefinitely. Some skills, however, have consequences of failure that must be taken into account. A few skills are virtually useless once a check has failed on an attempt to accomplish a particular task. For most skills, when a character has succeeded once at a given task, additional successes are meaningless.

Time and Skill Checks

Using a skill might take a round, take no time or take several rounds or even longer. Most skill uses are standard actions, move actions or full-round actions.

Types of actions define how long activities take to perform within the framework of a combat round (six seconds) and how movement is treated with respect to the activity. Some skill checks are instant and represent reactions to an event or are included as part of an action. These skill checks are not actions. Other skill checks represent part of movement.

Favourable and Unfavourable Conditions

Some situations may make a skill easier or harder to use, resulting in a bonus or penalty to the skill modifier for a skill check or a change to the DC of the skill check. The chance of success can be altered in four ways to take into account exceptional circumstances:

  • Give the skill user a +2 circumstance bonus to represent conditions that improve performance, such as having the perfect tool for the job, getting help from another character (see Combining Skill Attempts) or possessing unusually accurate information.
  • Give the skill user a –2 circumstance penalty to represent conditions that hamper performance, such as being forced to use improvised tools or having misleading information.
  • Reduce the DC by two to represent circumstances that make the task easier, such as having a friendly audience or doing work that does not have to meet a basic standard.
  • Increase the DC by two to represent circumstances that make the task harder, such as having an uncooperative audience or doing work that must be flawless.

Conditions that affect a character’s ability to perform a skill change the skill modifier. Conditions that modify how well the character has to perform a skill change the DC. A bonus to the skill modifier and a reduction in the check’s DC achieve the same result. Each creates a better chance of success. However, they represent different circumstances and sometimes that difference is important.

Checks without Rolls

A skill check represents an attempt to accomplish some goal, usually while under some sort of time pressure or distraction. Sometimes, though, a character can use a skill under more favourable conditions and eliminate the luck factor.

Opposed Checks

An opposed check is a check the success or failure of which is determined by comparing the check result to another character’s check result. In an opposed check, the higher result succeeds, while the lower result fails. In case of a tie, the character with the higher skill modifier wins. If the character’s skill modifier scores are the same, the players must roll again to break the tie.

Examples of Opposed Checks

Task Skill (Key Ability) Opposing Skill (Key Ability)
Con someone Bluff (Cha) Sense Motive (Wis)
Pretend to be someone else Disguise (Cha) Perception (Wis)
Create a false map Scribe (Int) Scribe (Int)
Hide from someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Make a bully back down Intimidate (Cha) Special1
Sneak up on someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Steal a coin pouch Sleight of Hand (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Tie a prisoner securely Ropes (Dex) Ropes (Dex)

1 An Intimidate check is opposed by a modified level check, not by a skill check. See the Intimidate skill description for more information.

Taking 10

When a character is not being threatened or distracted, his Player may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for a skill check, calculate the result as if you had rolled a 10. Taking 10 makes many routine tasks automatically successful. Distractions or threats, such as combat, make it impossible for a character to take 10. In most cases, taking 10 is purely a safety measure; the Player knows or expects that an average roll will succeed but fears that a poor roll might fail, so he elects to settle for the average roll, a 10. Taking 10 is especially useful in situations where a particularly high roll would not help.

Taking 20

When a Player has plenty of time, which generally means two minutes for a skill that can normally be checked in one round, one full-round action or one standard action, is faced with no threats or distractions and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, he can take 20. In other words, he would eventually roll a 20 on 1d20 if he rolled enough times. So, instead of rolling 1d20 for a skill check, he simply calculates his result as if he had rolled a 20.

Taking 20 means that a Player has the time and the inclination to roll repeatedly until he gets a 20. It assumes that he will fail many times before succeeding. Taking 20 takes twenty times as long as making a single check would take. Since taking 20 assumes that the character will fail many times before succeeding, if he did attempt to take 20 on a skill that carries penalties for failure, his character would automatically incur those penalties before he could complete the task. Common ‘take 20’ skills include Ropes, Disable Device and Perception.

Ability Checks and Caster Level Checks

The normal take 10 and take 20 rules apply for ability checks. Neither rule applies to caster level checks.

Combining Skill Checks

When more than one character tries the same skill at the same time and for the same purpose, their efforts may overlap. This can be done in several different ways; each combination is subject to its own set of rules.

Individual Events

Often, several characters attempt some action and each succeeds or fails independently. The result of one character’s Climb check does not influence the results of other characters’ Climb checks.

Aid Another

A character can help another character achieve success on his skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a co-operative effort. If the helper beats DC 10 on his check, the character he is helping gets a +2 bonus to his check, as per the rule for favourable conditions. A character cannot take 10 on a skill check to aid another character. In many cases, a character’s help will not be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once. In cases where the skill restricts who can achieve certain results, one character cannot aid another to grant a bonus to a task that the helper’s character could not achieve alone.

Untrained Skills

Generally, if a character attempts to use a skill he does not possess, he makes a skill check as normal. The skill modifier does not include a skill rank because the character has no ranks in the skill. Any other applicable modifiers, such as the modifier for the skill’s key ability, are applied to the check.

Any character may attempt any task, even if he has no formal training (skill ranks) in the appropriate skill. Heroes are highly adaptable, after all. However, he may never achieve more than the most basic success with an untrained skill, however naturally adept he might be, if that skill has ‘trained only’ in its description.

To use a ‘trained only’ skill untrained, the character simply rolls 1d20 and adds his key ability modifier along with any other applicable modifiers. Any die roll result of 10 or above is treated as a result of 10. You cannot take 10 on a check for an untrained skill.

For example, the Vendhyan noble Aisha is trying to read an inscription on a crumbling wall above a narrow ledge. Her first task is to make her way to the end of the ledge to reach the inscription, which calls for a Acrobatics check. Aisha has no ranks in the Acrobatics skill. Acrobatics is not a ‘trained only’ skill, so she simply rolls 1d20 and adds her Dexterity modifier of +2. The d20 roll is 16, which with +2 for her Dex modifier gives a check result of 18. She easily negotiates the ledge. Reading the inscription is another matter. It makes reference to several formulas involving the binding of demon lords and calls for a Knowledge (arcana) check. Aisha has no ranks in Knowledge (arcana), which is a ‘trained only’ skill. Her Intelligence is 17, for a +3 modifier. She rolls 18 on the d20 but because she is using Knowledge (arcana) untrained, this is reduced to 10, for an overall result of 13. The Games Master rules that she understands the basic gist of the inscription but does not glean its full meaning.

Ability Checks

Sometimes a character tries to do something to which no specific skill really applies. In these cases, he must make an ability check. An ability check is a roll of 1d20 plus the appropriate ability modifier. Essentially, the character is making an untrained skill check, since using a skill for which a character does not have any skill ranks is effectively an unmodified ability check. In some cases, an action is a straight test of one’s ability and there is no luck involved.

Just as characters would not make a Height check to see who is taller, they would also not make Strength checks to see who is stronger. The Games Master is responsible for determining what situations call for ability checks, which ones use skill checks instead and which ones require no rolls at all.

Skill Descriptions

This section describes each skill, including its common uses and typical modifiers. Characters can sometimes use skills for purposes other than those noted here. Here is the format for skill descriptions:

Skill Name

The skill name line includes the following information, in addition to the name of the skill:

  • Key Ability:* The abbreviation of the ability whose modifier applies to the skill check.
  • Trained Only:* If this notation is included in the skill name line, an untrained character can attempt it but can never score a result higher than 10; see above. If any special notes apply to trained or untrained use, they are covered in the Untrained section below.
  • Armour Check Penalty:* An armour penalty applies to checks using this skill if this notation is included in the skill name line. If this notation is absent, an armour check penalty does not apply.

The skill name line is followed by a general description of what a use of the skill represents. After the description are a few other types of information:

  • Check:* What a character (‘you’ in the skill description) can do with a successful skill check and the check’s DC.
  • Action:* The type of action that a use of the skill requires, or the amount of time required for a check.
  • Try Again:* Any conditions that apply to repeat attempts to use the skill successfully. If the skill does not allow a character to attempt the same task more than once, or if failure carries an inherent penalty (such as in the case of the Climb skill), the Player cannot take 20. If this paragraph is omitted, the skill can be retried without any penalty other than the additional time required.
  • Special:* Any extra considerations that apply to the skill, such as special effects deriving from its use or bonuses that certain characters receive because of class, feat choices or race.
  • Synergy:* Some skills grant a bonus to the use of one or more other skills because of a synergistic effect. This entry, when present, indicates this bonus.
  • Restriction:* The full utility of certain skills is restricted to characters of certain classes or characters who possess certain feats. This entry indicates whether any such restrictions exist for the skill.

Skills by Class

Skill Barbarian Borderer Commoner Noble Nomad Pirate Scholar Soldier Temptress Thief* Key Ability
Acrobatics 1 C C C cc cc C cc C C C Dex
Appraise cc cc cc C cc C C cc C C Int
Bluff C cc cc C C C C cc C C Cha
Climb 1 C C C cc C C cc C cc C Str
Craft (alchemy) cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc C cc Int
Craft (herbalism) C C cc cc C cc C cc C C Int
Craft (any mundane) C C C cc C C C C C C Int
Diplomacy cc cc cc C cc cc cc cc C C Cha
Disable Device cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C Int
Disguise cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc C C Cha
Handle Animal C C C C C cc cc cc cc cc Cha
Heal cc cc cc cc C cc C cc C cc Wis
Intimidate C cc cc C cc C C C C C Cha
Knowledge (arcana) cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc C Int
Knowledge (geography) cc C cc cc cc C C C cc cc Int
Knowledge (history) cc cc cc C cc cc C cc cc cc Int
Knowledge (local) cc C cc C C cc C C C C Int
Knowledge (nobility) cc cc cc C cc cc C cc C C Int
Knowledge (religion) cc cc cc C cc cc C cc cc cc Int
Perception C C C C C C C C C C Wis
Perform C cc cc C cc C C C C C Cha
Profession C C C cc cc C C C C C Wis
Ride C C C C C cc cc C cc cc Dex
Ropes cc C C cc cc C cc cc C C Dex
Scribe cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc C C Int
Sense Motive cc cc cc C cc cc C cc C C Wis
Sleight of Hand 1 cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C C Dex
Stealth 1 C C cc C C C C cc C C Dex
Streetwise cc C C C C C C C C C Int
Survival C C cc C C C cc cc cc cc Wis
Swim C C C cc cc C cc cc C cc Str

1 This skill is affected by the Armour Check Penalty.

C = Class Skill cc = Cross-Class Skill

Skills

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