Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blackmoor Character Sheet Clues, Part III (last)

The  learned skills listed on Peter Gaylords character sheet are:

The presence of a skills list on a pre D&D sheet might stir up a hornets nest of its own for some folks.  Many a post has been written about how “skills” ruin the game, so evidence of skill mechanics in the ur game of D&D might not be welcome news to all concerned.  I won’t presume to tell anybody their idea of gaming fun is bad/wrong.  I personally think there are lots of examples of skills in the 3LBB’s as it is, but it’s true there is no detailed system.   M. A. R. Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne™ “corrected” that “omission” as some would put it, but Arneson long contended that he had used a skills system “in so far as what I originally wanted to do ….with the different classes and the different fields you could learn.  I wanted to do that originally, but it was considered too complicated and people couldn’t handle it.  Well now that’s come back, you can do that.  You could really make a unique character class with the variability; and I always wanted to do that and I do that in my original campaign even today…. Because the players in the original campaign could learn different skills and different abilities....”  Dave Arneson, Mortality Radio interview, July 9th, 2004.

Arneson also claimed that “D&D at its start was a simple system with guidelines that could be tailored to the players...Each having strong points and weakness...  The skills (Such as found in my AIF game.) allowed you to build your character…” Official Dave Arneson Q&A Thread
« Result #30 on Jan 9, 2009, 3:25pm; Odd74 Forum

Of course, nobody familiar with AiF really thought  Arneson meant to say, strictly speaking, that AiF was exactly how it was in early Blackmoor.  Instead it seems more accurate to say that some of AiF builds on some of the concepts experimented with in the pre-D&D era, often with new or more developed mechanics.  So while AiF, or parts of it at least, may well be Arneson’s “original system”, at the systemic level, it is not true of the mechanical details, which are mostly quite altered or new altogether.   Most gamers don’t show much interest in tracing out all the stuff in AiF the way we do with D&D, and few people besides oddballs like me have done more than skim through the game.  Nevertheless, a  closer look at AiF  reveals some immediate parallels with the skill list on Peter Gaylords’s character sheet.

As mentioned previously, AiF has an “Education” sub-system.  Briefly, this is a list of 26 “Courses of Instruction”, 9 of them being in individual weapons, and several of the others being basic and advanced studies in the same subject or skill.  The courses are learned by a character through a “basic learning formula” taking into account time, intelligence, and course difficulty.  Among the 26 are:

Horsemanship (I, II, III)

Flying, is, of course a spell in AiF, leaving leadership the only "skill" on the Blackmoor character sheet generally unaccounted for in the game.   So we see that AiF carries a tradition of learned skills that does derive from early Blackmoor play.  That’s about as far as we can take the comparison however.  The AiF Courses of Instruction each have different benefits and game effects whereas Pete’s listed skills are pass/fail saving throw affairs.   So a final point about Peter Gaylord’s sheet we can make is that it not only illustrates an evolution of concepts found in D&D, it likewise illustrates the roots of some of the unique features of AiF.