During character creation, players pick a background. It can be from a list offered by the Referee or one they created themselves. When the player is asked to make a skill roll that pertains to their background, they can declare themselves trained in the skill and add half their level to the roll (and all similar rolls in the future). However, their experiences before adventuring are limited--a character can only declare a number of skills equal to half their Intelligence score.
Why is this good?
- I don't like how adventurers are not that good at adventuring. Fighters can't sneak? Magic-users can't pick locks? Nobody can fucking climb? This lets tomb robbers be tomb robbers while still allowing thievery to be somebody's shtick. Drop Thief/Specialist as a class and just offer Burglar as a background.
- New school classes like Barbarians and Druids now don't actually need classes. If you want to be a Bard, just pick it as your background as declare Millinery, Lute Playing, and Adultery as your skills. Druids are Magic-users with Botany, Animal Friendship, and Orienteering.
- This lets me have race-not-as-class without much cruft. Anyone with the Elf background can declare themselves trained in Flower Arrangement and Stealth. Drow can declare themselves trained in Poison Making, Echolocation, and Opera. Tieflings can declare Demonology, Hexing, and Pickpocketing.
- Spears of the Dawn and Stars Without Number backgrounds are really cool and really useful, but my attempts to write out all of them and then make sure each skill had roughly equal representation across backgrounds was kind of exhausting. This just lets me come up with a list of careers/species for a given region and then let players go nuts figuring out what skills they want. Character creation as world-building without much work.
- Making players decide when to spend a skill slot is a fun and slightly cruel minigame.
- No giant lists of skills to wade through during character creation.