Skill Level Advancement: Growth through Play

For the day-to-day business of roleplaying, characters are defined largely by their Trades and skills. Obviously the benefit to having learned them is the knowledge they provide, the things they allow the characters to know and to do, but it also lies in the fact that, if the characters are anything like real people, theses aspects of them can always be improved. The characters actually get to grow in them over the course of game play. Advancement in expertise, knowledge and/or actual physical skill provides characters with a greater frequency of success when using them, especially against tougher obstacles and opponents.

But, how do the TR’s and SL’s grow? How are they improved?

Character advancement is commonly considered by players to be one of the most direct and tangible means of rewarding them through their characters. The importance of this can only be over-looked at the peril of losing most of your players’ interest.

The method I chose to use as the primary means for character Advancement in RoM to determine the timing and frequency of advancement in the characters’ skills is a “use = reward” model.

This method dictates that it is only by use that a character accumulates enough experience, expertise, knowledge and/or actual physical skill to gradually improve his skills, and the Trades only through the skills and/or abilities that comprise them.

While experience generally results in growth, people too often take success with the skills we are sure of for granted, where failures are far more useful and instructive than success. It is from our failures that we learn the most. Failure tests a character’s skills, resources and adaptability in the struggle against the challenge or obstacle. It builds character (pun intended). It forces one to think more about the problem and test the limits of knowledge and imagination in coming up with a means of overcoming the failure, hence, the concept of “failing forward”.

An exception to this is built into the “Heroic Effects” rules (where those are in play):

IF you are utilizing the “Heroic Effects” rules, every Heroic Success achieved with the use of a skill should be accompanied by the automatic addition of a full SL.

A character must have a reason that makes sense in the context of the situation or circumstances of the game to exercise any given skill, as opposed to studying or practicing in order to simply maintain it at its current SL.

It is your job as GM to monitor this and maintain this standard for the PC’s in your game. It is your prerogative to deny a character his SP from the spurious and/or non-sensical use of skills. The timing of a skill’s use must make sense, for example. A character must have a reason for using his skills, even if only by virtue of the fact that a player wants to indulge his character’s hobby(-ies) – such as a Beast Master deciding to train one of the beasts in which he specializes simply because he doesn’t currently have one to enjoy in his life. In time that Beast Master may sell it and raise and train another, but this makes perfect sense from a roleplaying standpoint, valid exercises of skill, certainly.

This “use = reward” model for advancement is popular with many, even though it sidesteps the basic point of a roleplaying game.

This model isn’t so popular with those who are really committed to the fundamental roleplaying aspect of the game, because it can commonly grow into the cause for players who are more concerned with “getting ahead” going out of their way to have their characters go out of their way to do things just for the sake of doing them, to chase the precious SP’s, regardless of whether it makes sense in the context of the plot/situation at hand in the game.

A method I call the “high watermark” model is detailed following, as an alternative to be used instead, or perhaps even to use in tandem, as they affect the characters at different rates (GM’s discretion). It can be found after the discussion of Skill Points and their application in Advancement.

Skill Points (SP’s)

For the purposes of the game, the characters’ failures when attempting to use their various skills and abilities in the course of the game are tracked by means of essentially arbitrary units that reflect the accumulation of incremental increases in “experience” called “Skill Points” (SP’s, pl.; sing. SP).

One (1) SP is awarded each time a character fails in the use of a given skill or ability.

SP’s can only be accumulated from the failures of uses of skills or abilities for which the player must roll (d100) to determine success.

IF you as GM allow a skill to be exercised with a “hand-wave” indicating [automatic, uncontested] success, it really isn’t fair to deprive a player of his character’s chance to fail and earn a SP, so you might consider granting SP’s when this is done.

SP’s should be recorded on scratch paper the players aren’t likely to lose, perhaps among their game notes, as they are regularly going to be discarded and re-recorded as the game progresses, in a similar manner to BP’s when wounded, erased as a character heals again.

Skill Points are NOT SL’s, but are the means by which SL’s may be EARNED over time (see the passage headed “Advancement: SL Progression”, as follows).

SP Awards:

Special Considerations

The “1 SP per failure” rate is easily implemented for such skills as Pick Locks, Cut Purse, Savvy, Track, Tail, Stalk, for each High or Common charm cast, and the like.

Because Weapon skills only see limited and specific use in battle, one (1) SP is awarded for every attack launched that misses AND for every (Parry) defense offered that fails, throughout the course of the conflict. The same standard is followed in regards to attacks, Blocking and/or Parrying with the Shield skill and for all uses of Brawling, Grappling or Wrestling skills, whether for offense or defense.

If this standard is applied too tightly to a great many particular trades and their skills, however, the “one SP per failure” rule would provide scant reward, indeed, virtually infinitesimal growth in SL.

For practitioners of magick who are specifically engaged in working Low Magick, for the various works of the Craftsman trades (cutting and then sewing a garment, embroidering a kerchief or the borders of a garment, tatting and then stitching a lace appliqué, forging a garment of chain or a piece of field plate armor or a weapon for war or a brace of knives, digging and pouring a foundation and then raising a building, weaving a bolt of cloth or a tapestry, etc.), Courtier social engagements, the animal care of the Husbandman, the training of the Beast Master, from planning and planting to tending a garden through the harvest, the work can take hours or days or span weeks, seasons, or simply constitute a continuous effort (especially in the case of tending to horses or other livestock a party might have accompanying them).

In the course of pursuing these sorts of projects, it is assumed that there are frequent brushes with failure that might bring a project crashing down, but from which a character might still emerge victorious in the end, for the purposes of the game.

For this fact, and the fact that many of these skills represent significant investments in both time and materials that can never be gotten back, SP’s are awarded for their usage in the case of both character success AND failure. In all these cases, the DV for the specific exercise of the skill, craft or trade in question as you have determined, dictates the number of SP’s the failure is worth to the character, (as well as the Time Requirement for the character to carry it out, as described in the GM’s Notes also).

Succeeding in the attempt grants half (1/2) this amount of SP’s, instead. Of course, the character also has the fruits of his labors, in addition.

IF the exercise of the skill in question is interrupted, the SP’s to be derived from it are divided by the units in which the Time Requirement is counted to determine the intervals at which each SP is awarded.

For example, if the DV for the exercise of a particular skill, craft or trade is 20, the Time Requirement to exercise it is counted in days, and the final amount of time dictated after the benefit of the character’s own AV comes to 5 days, 

By failing, that character receives 4 SP’s every day for 5 days, for a total of 20. 

Should he succeed, he receives 2 SP’s per day for 5 days, for a total of 10.

At lower SL’s, this has the virtue of allowing a character to Advance rather quickly to start with, in partial compensation for what he loses in time and materials.

  • IF the exercise of such a skill should be interrupted in a way that the work is ruined or otherwise may not be recovered and completed, it is accounted a failure automatically and the SP’s accruing from that failure for the portion of the Time Requirement that was completed are awarded normally.
  • IF a character labors under the effects of a magick charm that, by its definition, enhances or adds its POT to a character’s normal SL and AV, the effective enhanced SL provides the measure against which SP’s accumulated from its use are measured to determine subsequent growth in SL, normally, IF it remains in effect for the entire Time Requirement for the project in hand. Otherwise, the bonus as it applies to this procedure is ignored.
  • IF a character labors under the effects of a magick charm that, by its definition, provides him with some form of knowledge, skill or ability he has not already achieved some measure of (at least SL1) by his own efforts, NO SP’s can be derived from the use of it at all.

For example, in the event that a Beast Master, is training two or more different beasts at the same time, the SP’s awarded for the exercise of his trade is derived from the highest of the DV’s among them to train (which dictates the greatest period of time in which the character remains engaged in using his (trade) knowledge/skills, plus a Progressive bonus based on the number of beasts he is training at once. 

Note they are NOT simply compounded.

The SP’s which might otherwise be awarded for each animal trained for the full course of time it takes to train, would quickly reach gross proportions when more than one beast is trained simultaneously.

In awarding SP’s for the use of Foreign Language skills, Social Graces, you as GM are likely to face a similar challenge when the circumstances in which the character is most comfortable or most commonly found do not include the use of those skills.

Brief interludes and occasions in which those skills can be brought to bear may come around now and again if you are thoughtful enough to include them but, aside from actually immersing a character in the foreign circumstances for which he is skilled, the SP’s are likely to be few and far between.

On the flip side of that coin, however, the SP’s for immersion must be watched carefully, for they can all too easily rise to ridiculous proportions again, and the rule for extended uses of skill on a limited basis for the various trades and crafts (as above) can not really be applied.

The sort of immersion described in regards to travelling to a foreign land to practice one’s Foreign Language skill, should actually be treated as similar to being turned loose in a library to read and soak up knowledge in the form of SP’s, allowing [(DV of customs or language the character is immersing himself in, reflecting intricacy) – (current SL) + (character AWA ÷ 4)] SP’s per week, and this could be prorated by the day, if desired, should the character only end up immersed in it for a few days.

Should a character enter a household of foreigners or those of a different Social Class/Station (Launguage and/or Graces) where the same sort of immersion similarly takes place, even if on a smaller scale, the same amount of SP’s might be prorated and awarded for each day he remains in that environment.

The above concerns in awarding SP’s are of the greatest concern when planning long rest periods – especially for healing wounds, winter breaks, long journeys, and the like. During such fallow periods, the characters are not engaged in adventures through which they can accumulate SP’s directly from roleplaying opportunities.

Should more than one character occupy the same niche in the adventuring party, even partially, they can profit by learning to work together and share opportunities. Should one character have a greater SL than the other with a particular skill, especially something like Pick Locks, Cut Purse, finding and disarming traps, or other such standard adventuring skills, those with lesser SL’s should not hesitate to acknowledge their colleagues’ greater skill and ask for help and/or guidance. Having a mentor can improve the growth of SL’s.

When a character succeeds in the use of a skill under the advice, tutelage and critique of a colleague-mentor of greater skill, it is a learning experience worth one (1) SP.

When a character fails under the advice, tutelage and critique of colleague-mentor of greater skill, a number of SP’s equal to the difference in their respective SL’s are earned, to a maximum of the colleague’s CHM att. mod., whichever is less. 

IF one character has greater SL than another in a skill they share and the occasion is used for a demonstration by the character with the greater SL for the benefit of the character with the lesser SL, the Time Requirement is doubled and the character performing the demonstration gains nothing from succeeding, normally, but the usual one (1) SP from failure. 

There really is no need for characters to compete with one another.

This should eliminate what might otherwise be an occasion for competition between characters, over which back-biting and in-fighting could possibly develop.

Should two characters in the same party have the same skill at the same SL, they can simply take turns as the opportunities arise for the use of the skill they share. It really is not that much of an obstacle when the players are willing to cooperate.

Skill Points are NOT SL’s, but are the means by which SL’s may be EARNED over time (see the passage headed “Advancement: SL Progression”, as follows).

Tracking SP’s

The tracking of SP’s is a totally mechanical task. It does not get much more nuts ‘n bolts regarding the rules than tracking SP’s. Unfortunately the practice has the power to reduce the impression left by the game to mere numbers and put the players in a “video-game” frame of mind.

In regards to tracking SP’s, you have a decision to make as GM.

At your discretion, your players can be placed wholly on their honor to record all of their characters’ SP’s. Putting the tracking of the SP’s entirely in the hands of the players puts great weight on the trust you hold for them.

When allowing the players to track SP’s themselves, you really have no effective way of auditing them and checking their accuracy, even when you require your players to pass you a note to inform you of an increase of SL when it occurs. It has the additional unfortunate consequence of spurring players into pursuing the exercise of skills for their own sake, as mentioned previously, to accumulate more SP’s and SL’s, shifting their focus to the numbers and mechanics of their characters’ TR’s and SL’s, rather than using trades and skills as tools for better roleplaying to move the plot lines and stories along, which is the point of the game.

Alternately, you have the option of taking charge of the SP’s, to keep all the records of SP’s entirely to yourself. This reduces the “video game”-like impression the SP’s can create. This is the more difficult course, but it is the most highly recommended. To take charge of SP’s and the process of skill growth completely helps to maintain the integrity of the atmosphere of the medieval fantasy of the game. With this method, you simply pass notes to the appropriate player when one of his character’s skills rises.

In the end, your players really should not have any inkling of when their character’s abilities are about to rise, in the same manner that the character should only ever have a ballpark idea of how long an exercise of a skill, craft or trade is going to take him to complete.

There is something to be said for the pleasant surprise attached to being told that one’s character has gained a level when it is not expected. This reinforces the fact that the players should have NO warning of when their characters are about to achieve a new SL.

Following this course, however, it becomes even more important that you keep copies of all the PCs’ Character Record Sheets and also that you get copies or updates as the characters grow and change.

Skill Points are NOT SL’s, but are the means by which SL’s may be EARNED over time (see the passage headed “Advancement: SL Progression”, as follows).

Practicing as a Source of SP’s: 

Multi-tasking, Dividing Up the Day

Even though the majority of skills may be provided with plenty of opportunity for play in the course of the characters’ adventures, it is well nigh impossible for a GM to create opportunities for every character to exercise ALL skills through every story-arc played through in the game. Travel is travel, and it is difficult to keep one’s skills – especially physical ones – sharp while on the road or aboard a ship except through active practice and going through the series’ of exercises such trades as Warriors, Acrobats, Musicians, etc. have for keeping limber and maintaining tone, suppleness and reflexes, sparring with training partners in the use of martial skills, or the like.

As GM, you should always try to allow time for and also to encourage the PC’s to keep their skills sharp and maintain or even work on increasing their SL’s by means of practicing when they have a chance, especially when there are no opportunities for actual applied use. Players commonly have to be reminded periodically that their characters skills can Atrophy unless tended to. Atrophy is described towards the end of this passage concerning skills.

For the purpose of allowing the PC’s to determine their activities during “hiatus” or a period of “downtime” when the game is about to be fast-forwarded, you should use the standard work-days of the Craftsman trades to determine the length of time a character is expected to put in on a given day in order to be considered as having devoted an entire day to a specific endeavor.

The long days of the Summer season are considered to allow 12 hours of actual work, the Spring and Fall allow 10 hours, and the short winter days allow 8 hours. 

The length of these work-days time is generally considered to also allow each character roughly an hour in the morning for ablutions, breaking fast, and a moment’s chat with housemates and/or neighbors, an hour’s break at noon for supper, plus a half-hour nap in the Summer season, and an hour in the evening afterwards to eat dinner and wind down before bed.

IF a PC has a number of activities he wishes to pursue, especially if all of those activities center on gleaning knowledge or practice in regards to a skill or trade to stave off atrophy or to actually accumulate SP’s towards advancement, he may divide his attention between up to (AWA ÷ 4) activities per day. For the purposes of the game, these are referred to as (AWA) “Activity Slots”.

As a Craftsman, Healer, Husbandman, Beast Master, Alchemist, lr the like, a character’s physical projects may also be similarly divided up by the use of Activity Slots but, in doing so, he lengthens the time required to complete a given project.

For example, if a character whose AWA is 14 has a project that requires 5 days of work be invested in it to complete, but the character has other tasks to attend to, he can choose to break his 9 hour day (Spring and Fall) into 4 slots (AWA 14 ÷ 4 = 3.5, or 4) and devote one to other interests. Since 5 days for this character equals 20 activity slots, dividing by the 3 slots per day he is devoting to the project tells us that the distraction the character is allowing himself for 1 of his activity slots indicates he finishes the project in 7 days, instead (20 ÷ 3 = 6.66, or 7). If the other distracting interests were weighty enough, the project could be pushed forward during only 1 time slot per day, and this would extend the time required to complete the project to 20 days, instead (20 total activity slots per day ÷ 1 slot per day allotted to the task = 20 days). Each PC should be free to manipulate the use of his time however he likes in regards to projects and pursuits.

The Activity Slots can be interpreted flexibly to help you in governing what it is the PC’s can accomplish in a day when the course of events of an adventure or especially a campaign hit a lull, or provide the PC’s opportunities to also pursue other avenues, interests or tasks that may require their attention. They aren’t likely to be able to be tackle everything all at once in a single day – nor should they! Socializing for the purpose of gleaning rumors and gossip through the use of Presence skills should take up no less than a full Activity Slot, as should shopping around town for a particular item, or perhaps as many as up to (AWA ÷ 4) items (GM’s discretion), such as supplies for various ritual or alchemical supplies (those for each specific substance or charm, as applicable, to be made being counted as a separate item).

When there is a lot to accomplish, it may be that the party of adventurers must separate and attend to their needs, or hire NPC’s to help them, to act as their agents or factors. In this regard, the Activity Slot is used to represent the minimum amount of time the character can spend working on a goal, project or exercise of skill, craft or trade and actually accomplish some appreciable increment of progress towards completing it, so as not to get lost in the process or lose focus, or miss important details.

Certainly, these Slots can be used to define background activities pursued while the PC party is actually engaged in resolving an adventure, although you want to break the “slots” down according to the season to determine how long they are for each character so they can more easily be woven into the flow of time during each day and the events you have set to unfold, according to adventure at hand.

When it comes to devoting time to cultivating skills or knowledge, there are two approaches to “practice”, one is for the purpose of maintenance only, simply to avoid the atrophy of a skill. The other is with the intent of further cultivating and honing the skill so as to accumulate SP’s towards an increase in SL.

Of the two, the first is easier to accomplish.

In regards to the practice of weapon and combat skills, including Acrobat in practicing Dodging maneuvers, fellow party members with weapon skills who are willing to spend the time may provide sparring partners to keep skills current. This is maintenance, however, and provides no SP’s towards advancement.

Practice for the purpose of growing a skill or ability is more difficult to arrange, except in a few limited circumstances. If a sparring partner has the same weapon skill and a higher SL, sparring with him can provide SP’s towards advancement. For each “activity slot” spent sparring with such a partner, the character earns one (1) SP, to a maximum number of SP’s equal to the difference in either their SL’s or AV’s, whichever is greater.

A colleague or mentor may shrug when that part of his technique that comes to him instinctively, by dint of great native talent (high att. mod.), is pointed out to him, unable to explain why he does what he does, but the students can still see it and try to emulate it, and thus benefit and prosper from being exposed to it.

Reading trade manuals can be used for either maintenance if the work merely covers the basics, or as a means for accumulating SP’s towards advancement. More comprehensive and advanced treatises should be sought out to glean SP’s towards advancement, as discussed under the heading “Tomes & Manuals as Sources of SP’s”, as follows.

When a sizable period of time is about to pass in the game, or you and your players are discussing the activities and projects to be addressed and accomplished during a period of time being allowed to pass very swiftly in the game world, (often done during travel sequences), you must make sure all the players are informed and have the opportunity to plan their characters’ activities to compensate for the passage of time and attend to the maintenance or cultivation of their skills/Trade(s).

When the time to pass is the winter season (northern climes, as applicable), or otherwise lasts for several months, and especially through a period of years, this takes on great importance.

When fast-forwarding through a number of years, a good and useful rule of thumb you might consider as GM is to bypass SP’s entirely and simply to add 1 SL to each skill for every year to be allowed to pass. Alternately, you might allow each player a number of skill levels equal to [(number of skills) x (number of years to pass)] and allow the players to divide them up as they wish, while requiring that each receive at least 1, and perhaps limiting the amount that may be spent on any one skill. This is a little more complex, but gives the players a free hand to continue their characters’ development along the lines they have chosen over the course of the passing game time.

SP’s are NOT SL’s, but are the means by which SL’s may be earned over time (see the passage headed “Advancement: SL Progression).

SP’s from Tomes & Manuals

Aside from the use or actual failure of the exercise of a skill, craft or trade as a means of earning SP’s, you should keep in mind that the writings of the masters in any given field of endeavor must be available to also be used as sources of additional knowledge worthy of study that can be quantified in terms of SP’s, when they can be acquired. These are going to be highly coveted. Some of them are going to be considered standards for certain trades, conspicuous by their absence in a guild library (as applicable), for those characters that are members, having access.

IF a character is lucky and is a Literatus, he may stumble across a written treatise or manual penned by a master in a skill or Trade he is pursuing. Books are intrinsically valuable as booty, but as resources for SP’s they have their limits. By their content they may be of use only to those learning the basics or for those only interested in maintenance, or they may be so advanced in content they are of use only to those who are already Masters and seeking to improve already considerable skills.

IF scribed by a master of sufficient learning and LoA in the Trade, such a manual can take the place of the teachings of a master required to attain the higher LoA’s.

Many masters keep journals that include their insights and knowledge, a record of problems encountered and remedies discovered, or they may actually sit down to pen a treatise for the benefit of either those of lesser skill in the Trade or craft, especially those new to the Trade as a master might address a treatise to his own apprentices, or it might be aimed at those more accomplished following along in their footsteps, such as a favored Journeyman (Proper), or even as a means to share their experiences and discoveries with their peers as a gift or in a bequest to a guild library, a great resource to pass his knowledge and discoveries on to his fellows after he is gone and they no longer his competition, and thus assuming an advanced knowledge of the Trade, its materials, practices and peculiar jargon. In the hands of one lacking the requisite LoA of the audience for whom a treatise is written, such a work is useless. Works containing knowledge of limited use but perhaps greater utility are addressed later.

Every local guild of a given craft keeps (and continues to compile) a record of the art and mysteries of their work in the library in the guild hall, for the reference of the (full) members of the guild (NOT the Journeymen, educating the Journeymen is the responsibility of the masters employing them). Upon his death, the master leaving no widow behind might bequeath such a book – or collection of books if he had a sufficiently long career and cultivated a high enough TR AND was inclined to set his knowledge down for posterity – to his favorite apprentice or Journeyman still practicing the trade, to aid him in furthering his career, his knowledge and standing among his peers.

When a married master dies his widow often continues in the craft, and perhaps even remarries within the craft, in which case any such books get passed down from generation to generation within the family AND the craft. When there is finally no one left in the family in the craft to whom to leave it, it gets left to the guild as a bequest at last, to protect the “mysteries” it contains.

Such treatises, journals and tomes should always be kept in mind for the purposes of inventorying booty obtained by the PC’s, especially when a book is indicated as an object lavishly decorated in precious metalwork and gems. Such decoration of a book either indicates a volume highly valued either for recreational reading or religious contemplation, or due to the rare and highly valuable nature of the information contained within it (alchemy and magick, especially so).

Thus, a portion of such books should be focused on the knowledge of a given trade (a result of “1” on a d10), and of those a small percentage should contain at least background information of general use to the practitioners of the magickal Ars Quintates (another result of “1” on a subsequent d10, or even a result from “01” to “05” on the roll of d100). Even when the dice indicate it, allowing books of either of these natures to randomly appear should be carefully considered.

The dice DO represent the Hand of Fate in the game, however, and sometimes important things wind up in the strangest places, as did the One Ring in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. A point worthy of some consideration. Accidents can happen when a library is being moved from one place to another, or books can get scattered or lost in the event of a hasty evacuation of the building due to flood, fire, civil unrest or threat of war.

Some of these writings spoken of here may not ever have actually been bound between covers into formal books, considering the expense involved, but may be rendered in the same manner as the Pipe Rolls of the medieval governments, stitched together end-to-end and rolled up like a pipe. Part of the rarity of such books or other similar forms of written records of trade knowledge, secrets or mysteries lies in the fact that literacy and the ability to write in a clear legible style is rather limited in the population of any game world that is more truly medieval in flavor – craftsmen in the towns (less than 10% of the population), clergymen (roughly 2-5%), estate and household bailiffs and reeves, rather a small percentage of noble men, miles literatus, and rather a higher percentage of noble women. Such written legacies of trade mysteries should only be found among those who can profit from them, those who a) can read, and b) have been trained in the trade from which the information in the tome is derived, and of those, generally only those who are well-to-do can afford to obtain and keep such records or books.

To facilitate a discussion of these books (etc.), they may be divided into one of three categories. practical, 

Practical Writings

First the practical “how-to” or “what -I-tried-&-how-it-turned-out” working journals penned during research into a limited subject which may be defined by a single trade-skill OR a particular trade ability, such as might be discovered upon reaching a given LoA in a trade or skill. In any event these types of works are notable for their relatively tight focus in topic(s). Such works are penned solely by the members of a particular craft for the use of the practitioners of that craft, and are jealously guarded by any craftsman into whose hands they fall, and similarly held by any guild that gains possession for the benefit of only their own (local) members.

These works may be rated by SL, up to that which the author had achieved. Not all topics (skills) addressed in a practical book need to have been written at up to the author’s full skill (GM’s discretion), however. At the GM’s discretion, the information in a practical tome may be focused in such a way as to be of use only to those of a certain LoA – composed to only be of use to the Journeyman Improver, or to the Journeyman Proper, the Warden, the Artisan or the Master.

IF the reader has not reached that LoA, he cannot hope to understand it sufficiently to gain any benefit from it, even though he read it cover to cover. It includes mysteries to which he is not privy, and thus of no use to him, except perhaps in crossing the threshold to achieving that LoA when he arrives at that point.

IF he have surpassed that LoA, he gains no further benefit from it, having long since absorbed the salient knowledge those of that LoA would need to learn.

When generating one of these tomes, the GM should roll a d5 to determine the number of subject skills covered, 1-4 indicating only one, a 5 adding one additional subject skill and requiring the roll of another d5 to determine if it is indeed only 2 subjects (1-4) or is three or more (5), rolling yet another d5. You should continue to roll in this way, open-ended, with an ultimate limit of 5-8 subjects at your own discretion, with the understanding that all skills discussed should belong to the same Trade.

A practical tome or treatise can be worth as many as [(author’s AWA) + (author’s applicable skill SL’s) + (author’s applicable Lore SL’s)] in SP’s. 

When the book is a collection covering more than one topic, (the GM might throw a d5 to determine how many when he wants to include more than 1), the GM might allow the same number of SP’s for each topic addressed by the author, BUT variety is the spice of life ….

Theoretical Writings

Second are general theoretical tomes or treatises comprising an overview of the craft and the author’s own thoughts, experiences, observations and impressions (insofar as he was able to gather them without compromising the “mysteries” of the Trades). Each theoretical treatise should be confined to topics concerning a specific Trade  or group of related/compounded/Allied trades.

These are referred to as “common” theoretical tomes.

Common theoretical works are open for use by the general public as described above, especially for further cultivating the Lore skill, as well as by those of a given Trade, and thus are NOT limited in any way in regards to the LoA as a Practical Treatise or Practical Theoretical Treatise may be.

When addressing a greater trade, which can consist of other trades bundled within, the theoretical tome may wander about between all related bundled trades, as well. Thus, a treatise on Wizardry could very well cover aspects of Astrology, Alchemy, Herb Lore as relates to magick, as well as the Forms (High, Common, or Low) and the 5 Arts, all aspects of the Trade and the general skills of the trade, such as Spirit Skills, or might be confined to any one of these, or any selection of these. A practical tome of Wizardry, however, might discuss the Forms and the Arts and most likely a few specific charms, as well.

In the same vein, a work on Husbandry might be focused on common domestic beasts in general, from cows to sheep to pigs or on the keeping of horses in particular, or hawks, or hounds, the beasts of the hunt either severally or individually, and such a work might or might not also include information regarding Beast Mastery for the beasts whose keeping it discusses.

In the case of the myriad trades covered by the single entry “Craftsman” Trade, any written work focused on all the Trades encompassed by a specific industry, such as the cloth trade (spinners, weavers, fullers, and perhaps even some information on dyers), the various aspects of Smithcraft, or the concerns of the different strata of the Healer trades, and so on. Thus, a theoretical treatise may end up being of use to the practitioners of more than one specific Trade.

Alternately, you can use a more narrowly focused writing to help a character form a more sharply focused craft (skill) within the Trade, such as dyer in cloth manufacture or Silver-/GoldSmithcraft or Armor-craft amongst Smiths, to establish that as a specialty with a higher specific SL, if you learn that a PC’s interests lies in that direction.

For example, a book on the proper places and functions of the officers of Crown government, illustrated liberally with anecdotes in the medieval style about the men who have held the office and their families and the means by which their various causes have been accomplished in the past could be of interest to Courtiers or Diplomats or even Recommenders. Scholar characters might find it useful in regards to their Lore concerning the nation’s history or their knowledge regarding the workings of government, or any character who deals with the government and the nobility, such as a Merchant (although in only limited aspects) and Troubadors or Minstrels (from the social aspects). If such a work also ran into descriptions of battles, the manner in which troops were ordered, assembled, arrayed and equipped as well as their provisions, ships and any siege weaponry, the manner in which the troops were ordered on the field, as medieval books were wont to wander, it would also be of interest to those of most of the Warrior trades (excepting perhaps Champions), and again to Merchants whose talents were often tapped in times of war for their great knowledge and expertise in moving great amounts of goods around and between the realms in keeping the armies supplied with food and arms and moving them from place to place, especially over seas.

The main characteristic of common theoretical tomes is that they contain no knowledge in them that even the greenest Journeyman Improver in the Trades it applies to is not already well-versed. They are great for use in the instruction of apprentices when the apprentice is literate. If the manner in which the text meanders does not lend itself to the uses of interrelated crafts (as shown above), it should be only of general use to those outside the craft to accumulate positive SP’s towards a new Lore specialty in the topic(s) covered OR allow the character reading it to use the SP’s to further develop the general Lore skill and/or Scholar knowledge specialties (as applicable, at your discretion).

A theoretical treatise can be worth as many as [(author’s AWA) + (author’s applicable Lore SL)] in SP’s. 

When the book is a collection covering more than one topic, (the GM might throw a d5 to determine how many when he wants to include more than 1), the GM might allow the same number of SP’s for each topic addressed by the author, BUT variety is the spice of life …. 

Practical Theoretical Writings

The third is a practical theoretical treatise, which focuses on one specific Trade or group of related/compounded/Allied Trades, including the use of inherent Trade abilities such as Assessments and Senses, and when focused on a single Trade generally includes one or more related/Allied Trade. In effect, it provides the reader with SP’s to be divided between ALL the Trade skills and sub-skills the GM cares to stipulate are covered in the work.

The definitive aspect of a practical theoretical treatise is that such works are only of use to those specifically trained for the Trade(s) to which they are dedicated, in the same manner as a practical tome, whereas a common theoretical treatise contains information useful on one level or another to those outside the trade(s).

An alternate type of Practical Theoretical text involves certain specific processes in regards to special materials, the methods for producing certain specific and valued types of alloys for the Smith-Forge, the methods for handling silks and threads of silver and/or gold in regards to the weaver’s or embroiderer’s arts, the methods for getting the best cut with the least waste from diamonds and emeralds for the Gem-cutter/Jeweler, how decorative stone should be approached and handled by the Mason and best utilized by the Mason-Architect. Such texts as these should provide the SP’s noted but only for those Trades, skills and/or sub-skills to which that knowledge might be applied.

A practical theoretical treatise can be worth as many as [(author’s AWA) + (author’s TR) + (author’s applicable Lore SL’s)] x number of areas addressed (GM’s discretion) in SP’s.

The number of SP’s a written work represents determines its length in pages. The information expressed by the SP’s contained in any written work may be condensed no further than [(SP’s in work x 4) + (CHM att. mod.)] – (Linguist LoA) in total pages. 

This page count assumes that the author has attempted to cover his topics as precisely and exhaustively as he was able. If not, then the book’s SP’s, and therefore page length, should be adjusted accordingly (on a ‘per topic’ basis, as applicable).

Of course, the work may be padded with rhetorical fluff and Bombast if the author has that skill, adding (Rhetoric & Bombast AV) pages to the work, or simply to account for writing style (GM’s discretion).

IF you, as the GM, have determined that part of any work, regardless of the class into which it falls, has been damaged or is otherwise missing, the SP’s it was originally worth should also be proportionately diminished.

In the period of the game, it is very common to gather together a number of works either on the same topic or by the same author (regardless of topic) when getting the pages bound into book form, to keep them safe and make the results of that expensive process more economical in the end. In this way, a treatise concerning only a single aspect of a trade, like Combustibles for Alchemy, or could combine aspects of a practical as well as a theoretical work in one, addressing the use of Sympathy via Astrology in casting charms, by the hand of a Wizard who is also an Astrologer.

You are free to combine works of different types under one cover.

Have fun with this!

The page lengths of the works that result from the equation given may run quite high in some cases, which may lead the GM to breaking what was envisioned as a single work up into volumes, or broken up into separate works completed at different points in time by the author. Regardless of whether compounding or breaking books apart, you should be very specific when describing the value of a book in SP’s insofar as to what skills those SP’s apply to.

If a tome is compiled of treatises on more than one topic, you should be aware that it is highly likely to actually be a compilation of such works as were deemed to be related, put together and bound in the same volume by a scholar-collector for the sake of putting his references in order. Such books containing more than one written work might be gathered together under a single cover by author, so that the works of a particular author’s literary career (or as many pieces of it as could be found) might be accessed under one cover, or they may have all been written by different authors (the only difference this may make to you as GM is a difference in AWA and SL of knowledge/skill, and thus, SP’s) bound together by topic, so that all of a certain type of subject material be together under one cover.

Both of these were, in fact, common practices in the period of the game. Indeed, as a variation also commonly found, one or the other approach might have been taken in assembling a book, and the general theme violated by the inclusion of one or two contrasting works on a particular subject by different authors in a book otherwise devoted to the works of a single man, or one or two works by the same author on different topics included alongside all those assembled on a particular subject matter in which his work is also included.

When every book is made to order, the literary patron or scholar can have his library collection of literary works grouped and bound in any manner he desires. He is the one paying for it. There is no rhyme or reason to it, only the individual tastes of the one who created/commissioned the book.

As a side note, for the amusement of those with an inclination to do so, the names of literary works and their authors that you brings into the game might be compiled and kept on a list, along with their SP’s values and contents as the PC’s in the game begin to acquire libraries of their own. This is an excellent means and tool for enhancing the depth of game world history, of society and especially the societies of the Trades and guilds in the eyes of the players. You may well find the players judging the authors by the SP’s their books are worth (relating directly back to the author’s TR and/or SL’s) and start looking for “authorities” in the field by that measure. To them, the “best” books are those that contain the greatest amount of practical knowledge (highest number of SP’s).

When it comes to Grimoires of specific charms, you should keep track of the skill lists of each author, making sure those the author must have known in life, if now deceased, were not to numerous, aside from any general references he may have written. You might perhaps limit the books authored regarding specific charms to only those with which they were most concerned or interested. You could conceivably build up notes on each author over the course of your campaigns as the PC’s gather, read and catalogue their own private libraries.

The weights of the character’s books for the purposes of tracking ENC can be found on the following table, according to the page count determined by using the equation given previously.

The pages of these books are scribed upon one side only so that the text do not bleed through and remain clear and legible, along with any diagrams or illumination.

One pound was added to these weights as an average for the bindings, and all pages are assumed to be of the imperial octavo size. Once the leaves in a Wizard’s beginning books are full, he may take it to a book binder and have it broken open and extra pages sewn in. A maximum of 300 to 500 pages per book should be observed. Beyond this page count the character must start scribing loose pages and look for a book-binder to make a new book.

The base cost for binding a book is equal to (number of pages ÷ 5) in pence, as stated in Appendix D.1. This includes a plain maple, walnut, oak, or similar common wood cover.

These are the sorts of reference tomes discussed in the GHB II. The Grimoire as being needed to aid in the study of and learning of new magickal dweomer skills and any of the other aspects of the trade that call for special knowledge, such as making magickal items and honing the skills used in magickal duels.

Once a character has one of these ever-so-useful books in his hand, he needs some time and leisure to read it, for that is the only means by which he can gain any of the SP’s contained in those pages.

A character may read roughly (AWA) pages in an hour. 

This should be adapted to the duration of each of the character’s “time slots” and the number of such slots allotted to the reading of a given tome in a day. The SP’s contained in the pages read should prorated to pages so the number gleaned according to the pages read in the allotted time can be determined, making it easier to determine how much benefit has been derived if the character should be interrupted in the process, or if he is content to pursue the reading at a leisurely pace, a few pages here, a few pages there.

The value of a book in SP’s is not limited to only those noted, by which it is defined, which is gained from the first reading. 

IF the character waits (HRT) days before picking it up again, he may read it again and gain a further (SP’s – 1) SP’s from it and, after waiting the same period again, re-read it for (SP’s – 2) SP’s, and over and again, each time allowing the same (HRT) days to elapse between readings, and each time gaining one less SP until he has gotten all that he can from it. 

No matter the number of SP’s received from the reading, the time required for each reading of a given tome is determined by the original number of SP’s it is described as containing.

Skill Points are NOT SL’s, but are the means by which SL’s may be EARNED over time (see the passage headed “Advancement: SL Progression”, as follows).

7-3. Book Weights, by Page Count


SL Progression

The SP’s a character accumulates through skill use are NOT SL’s.

SP’s are the means by which SL’s may be EARNED over time.

Time and experience and the growth of skills should be fluid and organic as it is in the Real World.

As soon as a character has accumulated [(current SL) + 13] in SP’s, towards a particular skill, it rises in SL by one (1).

Progression in SL is allowed to take place whenever and wherever it naturally occurs, no matter what phase of play the character happens to be engaged in at the time.

IF a character receives a % bonus to a Trade and/or specific skill due to race, heritage, etc., that bonus is used to reduce the number of SP’s needed to reach each SL, in turn.

When the threshold is reached and a SL is earned, the SP’s that got him there are erased, without exception. 

The process of accumulating SP’s then begins anew.

At the higher SL’s the intervals between increases in SL due to accumulation of SP’s grows longer and longer.

The more obvious effects of progression in certain skills, especially physical skills and combat skills among them, can be accounted for relatively easily in the midst of play, even in the middle of a battle (AV’s and DV’s for battle skills), while the player can run a fine-toothed comb through the Character Record Sheet to attend to the rest as soon as he has the leisure to catch any details he might have missed.

Adding a SL directly and immediately affects that skill’s AV(s). 

Growth in the physical skills are of primary importance, as each of the character’s Weapon skills (NOT including crossbows) and/or Shield skill, his Brawler skill, any and all Life Skills with which he is equipped that appear on the roster for the Athlete bundle (as applicable), as well as the Contortionist/Escape Artist skill provides a bonus of one (1) point per 4 SL’s to Wind and BP’s. 

In the event that TR(s) increase, a bonus of (1 per 4 TR’s) is added for each of the Warrior, Night Watch or Fyrd, Huntsman, Druid-Smith or Druid-Fiana trades, Mariner, Farmer, Husbandman and/or Beast Master trades, Craftsman-Carpenter (any), Craftsman-Mason (any) or Craftsman-Smith (any), Acrobat, and/or any other similarly physical trades (at the GM’s discretion) in which the character has been trained (GM’s discretion), affect FTG, and BP’s. 

Warrior Trade characters get a (TR) bonus to P-RES, Night Watch a (1 per 2 TR’s) bonus, Fyrd a (1 per 4 TR’s) bonus that must keep track with TR increases, 

Wizards, Witches and Druids get a (TR) bonus to M-RES, Hedge Wizards and Hearth Witches a (1 per 2 TR’s) bonus, WiseWomen and CunningMen a (1 per 4 TR’s) bonus, that also must be kept current.

In the application of this system and procedure for skill progression, the players are likely to be torn between the need to succeed for the benefit of the success in meeting their objectives, which achievement provides them with a few SL’s, and the benefit of failing in order to learn and improve his abilities more regularly (at least to start with).

This can be quite a dilemma in battle. Consider how much better a character can get with his weapon skills in only one engagement with the enemy when he has only low SL’s to begin with, especially if the battle should be prolonged. He could conceivably earn 2-3 SL’s. But that rapid rate of increase gradually slows as he gets better and better.

In this light, you can see that the limitation on the number of tries a character is allowed to overcome any particular static (fixed, inanimate) obstacle (as discussed under “Task Resolution”) is actually a limit on the number of SP’s that can be gained from a single challenge or obstacle. A character has a chance to reap only a limited number of SP’s in failures.