Thursday, April 26, 2012

Proficiencies 101: Customization

This post is the third in a series of posts that will take a closer look at proficiencies in the Adventurer Conqueror King system main rulebook.

Players can customize their characters through their choice of proficiencies.  This is demonstrated well by the Adventurer Conqueror King system’s concept of templates.  The Adventurer Conqueror King system main rulebook includes a pre-generated template for each class, with proficiencies, equipment and spells ready for play.  Additionally, the Adventurer Conqueror King system Player’s Companion includes eight templates for each class.  For example, a Fighter can be a Corsair, Lancer, Mercenary or Thug, while a Mage can be a Court Magist, Hedge Wizard, Magical Scholar or Soothsayer.  Just browsing through the proficiency, equipment and spell selections of these templates can spark ideas for players and Judges alike.  Interestingly, the Player’s Companion suggests determining character templates randomly, in lieu of the roll to determine a character’s starting gold.  As a side benefit, Judges can similarly randomly generate class-specific NPCs as needed.  Although this series of posts is focused on proficiencies in the Adventurer Conqueror King system main rulebook, I felt anything I might do to demonstrate character customization through proficiency selection would duplicate the work already done in the Player’s Companion.

Judges can customize their games using proficiencies.  Of course, there are many possibilities, and one Judge might choose a different approach with different games, be they one-off games, a brief, change-of-pace campaign, or a long-running campaign.  One possibility I am not considering is increasing the rate at which classes gain proficiencies.  There are a wealth of other options available that I want to explore first, without the challenges inherent in potentially adding power to the classes.

A Judge could choose not to use proficiencies.  This might be most appropriate for a quick game or a campaign that wants to stay as close as possible to the experience of the original B/X rules.  When a Judge chooses to use proficiencies, the classes in play may affect how the Judge wants to implement proficiencies.  For example, suppose a Judge has decided to limit classes to the Fighter, Mage and Thief.  This would greatly restrict the proficiencies in play as well.  The Judge might choose to mitigate this by allowing a character to select class proficiencies from both the character’s class list and one other class list.  Perhaps Fighters and Mages could select proficiencies from the Cleric list, Fighters and Thieves could select proficiencies from the Explorer list, and Mages and Thieves could select proficiencies from the Bard list.  Although some choices wouldn’t make sense, this would add more variability to the three classes in play.

Campaign-specific proficiencies are an obvious customization that a Judge might consider.  However, there is a challenge to campaign-specific proficiencies in the form of the existing general and class proficiency lists.  If the prospective campaign-specific proficiency seems like something all classes (and indeed 0th level folk) would have access to, making the new proficiency a general proficiency is a quick solution.  Similarly, a Judge might customize his game by adding or subtracting existing proficiencies from the general list.  For example, perhaps the Judge has decided that wrestling is common among the cultures of his world, seen frequently at children’s playgrounds and village fairs, with accomplished wrestlers held in high esteem.  Therefore, the Judge adds Combat Trickery(wrestle) to the general list.  Or, a Judge might add or subtract existing proficiencies from the general list for specific races or cultures only.  For example, Combat Trickery(wrestle) might be considered a general proficiency for humans only or Nordic humans only.

But what about the class proficiency lists?  As discussed earlier in this series, the class proficiency lists are an important aspect of the class design.  Therefore, I am hesitant to add to or subtract from the class proficiency lists willy-nilly.  There are several possible solutions, which a Judge might use individually or together.  First, “exchanges”.  Using this approach, the number of proficiencies on the class lists must not change.  Any campaign-specific proficiency added to a class proficiency list must have a corresponding proficiency removed from that list.  This approach is most appropriate when either the changes are known to be few, or the Judge is interested in “hand-crafting” the classes for a hopefully long-running campaign.  A downside to this approach is that it can be maintenance intensive if the campaign includes a lot of custom proficiencies and/or classes over time, as each new possibility might trigger a number of changes.  Exchanges could be done in conjunction with modifications to the general list.  For example, if Running is considered a general proficiency for humans and elves, that potentially opens a “slot” for a campaign-specific proficiency for the Fighter, Thief, Assassin, Bard, Bladedancer, Explorer, Nightblade and/or Spellsword.  A second approach is “simile”.  Using this approach, each new campaign-specific proficiency is considered “like” an existing proficiency on the class proficiency lists.  Any class with access to the existing proficiency gains access to the new proficiency.  This approach is quick and somewhat “future-proof” if new classes are added to the campaign later.  However, some curious outcomes could result.  A third approach is proficiency “packages”.  Using this approach, a block of proficiency slots, say four, is added to all class proficiency lists.  The Judge then creates pre-selected packages of campaign-specific or existing proficiencies that represent backgrounds, organizations, styles or themes in the Judge’s campaign.  A character could choose not to select a package at the start of a campaign or even never, if the general and class proficiency lists include the proficiencies the character intends to learn.  A Judge can customize this approach as desired, perhaps dedicating one or two slots to campaign backgrounds, two or three slots to campaign themes, or even one or more slots as the campaign unfolds and opportunities or secrets become available to characters.

This concludes this week’s post in my Proficiencies series.  I plan to post in this series every two weeks until it finishes.  Next up, I return to my analysis of proficiencies.

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