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What Do You Mean "I Can't Ride A Horse"?

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Some GMs like to get picky and rule that player characters can't do a lot of common everyday tasks at all unless they are of a certain character class or have taken a specific skill. Such GMs will not allow a character to do something as simple as ride an old nag down a calm town street if they aren't a knight or don't have the horse riding skill without making all sorts of rolls to see if the character falls off or if that old nag throws him.

While I'm normally against adding rules to a game to try to limit bad GMing, I've decided that it is important in a simple game like Microlite74 to make it clear that characters start with basic adventuring skills. They might not know how to ride in a steeplechase, but they can ride a horse. They might not be able to swim the channel, but they can stay afloat and swim well enough to move about slowly in a pond. Etc.

I've added the following to the tiny set of skills rules in all versions of Microlite74:

Basic Adventuring Skills: Unless a player specifies otherwise about a character at character creation, all characters are assumed to have basic practical adventuring skills such as maintaining weapons and armor, riding a horse, setting up a camp, swimming, climbing, cooking, first aid, etc., and have a rough idea of the value of common coins, trade goods, gems, and jewels. Success should simply be assumed unless there are unusual conditions.
All characters are adventurers and are assumed to have a basic competence with normal adventuring tasks. Note that this doesn't mean you cannot have a Microlite74 character who can't swim at or who burns water when he tries to cook a meal if you really want to, it just means that if you want such a character, you need mention "sinks like a rock" or "can't cook" on your character sheet.

5 comments:
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Joseph said...
August 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

I did something similar with Adventures Dark and Deep (although I explicitly said that dwarves couldn't swim unless there was a reason to let them do so), basically saying that possessing a skill merely means you can do a thing _better_ than someone without that skill.

I didn't include a list of everyday things characters can do, however; that just seems to be an invitation for GMs to say "your character can't do that-- it's not on the list". Might be worth re-thinking, though.

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Capheind said...
August 13, 2011 at 11:13 PM  

I doubt this will solve the problem though, the rare jerk DM I've encountered who pulled this did so in systems that often explicitly said that checks were only necessary under stressful conditions.

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Randall said...
August 14, 2011 at 7:20 AM  

@Capheind: You're right, this rule will not stop jerk GMs -- nothing except their players waking will stop a jerk GM.

It will give good guidance to the average GM, especially given that Microlite74 is an old school style game that depends more on the GM just deciding if something works or not (instead of skill rolls). This rule reminds GMs new to this style of play that basic adventuring activities should normally "just work".

It will also allow new players to easily tell if their GM is being a jerk so they can walk before they get too invested in the game. :)

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Sully said...
August 14, 2011 at 1:26 PM  

I'm a city boy, and once went with a friend to a ranch because she wanted me to get to ride a horse at least once in my life. I'm a six-foot, 200 lb man, and that horse was a lot bigger than me. It was trained to accept new riders and even then I was still unsure of what I was doing. Riding a horse is not a simple thing, even down a calm street. So really, it ought to depend on the characters and setting, as far as PCs, off the bat, being able to do "common" tasks like ride a horse. That is one big creature, and if it doesnt want to carry you somewhere, it doesnt have to unless you really know what you are doing. The general assumption in my DM style is that an adventurer-type has probably at some point been exposed to horse-riding, and that it's not fun to impose those kinds of penalties. But for DMs who get after verisimilitude, I think it's justified. You can't just hop on a horse and ride it if you have no idea what you are doing.

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Randall said...
August 14, 2011 at 1:58 PM  

@Sully: While I understand and even agree with your "it takes some skill to even be able to ride a nag" position, the point of the rule is that all "adventurer" characters in Microlite74 are assumed to have a basic idea of what they are doing when it comes to common adventurer activities and tasks. It's not that they have no skill and should be able to do it anyway, but that they are assumed to have the basic skills to handle common adventuring tasks.

Microlite74, like many old school games, doesn't have selectable lists of skills (as a game mechanic) to begin with so this rule is just a way of reminding players and GMs that adventurers should be assumed able to handle basic adventuring activities.

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