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The Good-At System.

By bohemian

It's incredibly simple. At character generation, a player chooses a single verb or noun that their character is Good At. For instance, Hagar the Fighting Man is Good At: Climbing. During play, a situation like this might arise:

DM: The horde of bugbears slowly advances, their wicked blades gleaming in the moonlight. With only the sheer cliff wall behind you, you fear that you are trapped.

Hagar: Can I scramble up that wall?

DM: Hmmm... It looks like a pretty tough climb.

Hagar: Well, my guy's Good At Climbing.

DM: (Thinks for a moment) Okay, sure. You find some handholds that would have escaped the notice of an unskilled climber and are soon 15 feet above the heads of the howling bugbears.

You'll notice a few things about the interaction — The skill serves ONLY as a guide for the player and the DM, there are no percentages to take into account, no rolls to make (unless the DM decrees it), no mechanical guarantees at all. The player is encouraged to try this action out despite the knowledge that the cliff face is "sheer" because he knows Hagar is a skilled climber. The DM simply considers the situation in light of this information and takes the Good At into account when he makes the call. There's also no particular reason why a "normal" character wouldn't try the same thing because the Good At doesn't indicate a basic level of competency but rather an advanced skill. Thus a norm can still climb, just not as well.

Now, the Good At skill can literally apply to anything that your players come up with. Thief skills like Climbing, Picking Pockets, Lock Picking, Spotting Traps, etc are a natural fit, but so are things like Herbalism, Running Away, Working With Animals, Lying, Fast Talk, Horse Back Riding etc.

So, that's the basic idea. Here are some thoughts on implementing the system —

At generation, every player may choose one Good At for their character. A player *can* choose a second Good At, but only if they're willing to take a Bad At as well (which, obviously, would work the same way.)

Every 5 levels, a character gains EITHER an additional Good At OR they can get rid of a Bad At OR they may change an already existing Good At into a Really Good At. Which, of course, works like a normal Good At except that the player can now say "But Hagar is REALLY Good At climbing".