Saturday, October 19, 2013

Skills: The d6 in B/X

I faintly remember someone else doing this before, going through B/X and enumerating all the d6 "skill rolls" in that wonderful revision of D&D. But what the heck, can't hurt for me to do it as well, so here we go:

  1. Hear Noise (pages B8, B21, X6): Anyone has a 1 in 6 chance, demi-humans have a 2 in 6 chance, thieves start at 2 in 6 and improve to 5 in 6 by level 11.
  2. Expert Miner (page B9): Dwarves detect slanting passages, traps, shifting walls, and new construction with a 2 in 6 chance.
  3. Secret Doors (pages B9, B21): Anyone has a 1 in 6 chance to find a secret door, elves have a 2 in 6 chance.
  4. Hiding (page B10): Halflings have a 2 in 6 chance of staying undetected in dungeons.
  5. Opening Doors (page B21): Anyone has a 2 in 6 chance of opening a stuck door, strength modifier applies.
  6. Finding Traps (pages B9, B22): Anyone has 1 in 6 chance to find a (non-magical) trap, dwarves have a 2 in 6 chance.
  7. Lighting Fires (page X10): Anyone has a 2 in 6 chance of lighting a torch/fire with a tinderbox in one round.
  8. Foraging/Hunting (page X51): There is a 1 in 6 chance of finding enough food (or encountering a suitable animal to kill) per day.

I left out d6 rolls that are not usually thought of as "skills", for example the "springing a trap" roll, random encounters, surprise/initiative/pursuit, stocking dungeons, etc. Did I miss another player-facing "skill" use of the d6? Please let me know if I did, I hope this will be the definite post on the subject in the years to come. :-)


  1. Zounds! This needs to be on reference sheets... or maybe on the character sheets themselves.... Wow. Thank you!

  2. This was posted on the long-deleted Romance Monsoon as "D&D Implied Skill System" back in fall of '09. (The table format doesn't come through in comments.)

    "Long, long ago on a blog far, far away I once posted on the implied skill system in Moldvay Basic. That post was a victim of blog deletion, but I wanted to go over it again, as every once in a while someone will post on adding a skill system into their old-school D&D rules. This is probably one of the most common of all homebrewings, right up there with spell points, hit locations & ablative armour mechanics. As an aside, it is interesting to me that the absence of a skill system is clearly one of the distinguishing features of D&D, with many of its contemporaries seemingly crafted with such systems as a response to D&D... yet it still seems to many fans to cry out for remediation.

    I don't agree that a skill system is needed... because there really is one there. And I'm not referring to the "There's always a chance" guideline on page B60 that suggests players "roll the ability score or less on 1d20", as sufficient as that is. There are a number of concrete mentions of die rolling for task success in the BASIC boxed set, and they give a pretty good idea of how DMs might approach a novel situation without resorting to a new mechanic.

    Dwarves find slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction: 2 in 6 B9
    Elves find secret or hidden doors: 2 in 6 B9
    Detect a halfing after they "vanish into woods or underbrush": 10% B10
    Detect a halfing in a dungeon once it "finds some cover... and remains absolutely quiet and still": 2 in 6 B10
    Force a stuck door: 2 in 6 B21
    Non-elves find secret door: 1 in 6 B21
    Human hear noise at a door: 1 in 6 B21
    Demi-human hear noise at a door: 2 in 6 B21
    Non-dwarf chance to find a trap: 1 in 6 B22

    B2, The Keep on the Borderlands
    Chance of not falling into pit unless "probing ahead": 3 in 6 A.
    Chance to notice net trap: 1 in 6 C.
    Detect secret door opening mechanism: 1 in 6 F.
    Chance of noticing a gray ooze unless at least 2 torches are held up: 1 in 20 G.33
    Avoid drinking to excess for 1-4 turns(!) after tasting an exceptionally fine ale: 1 in 6 J.48

    First off, excepting forcing a stuck door, on none of these rolls is an ability modifier even suggested. Second, note that regarding falling into the pit at the entrance to the kobold lair and being ambushed in the lair of the gray oozes the chance isn't modified by measures. The correct measures eliminate the random factor entirely. Combining these facts it seems that rolling is only called for when random or opposing factors overwhelm the PC, and when they do the default task check roll is generally 1 in 6, with an increase to 2 in 6 if class is ameliorative.

    The extremely difficult tasks of noticing a concealed halfling (1 in 10) or gray ooze (1 in 20) are curious, as the chance of occurence seems quite low compared to the number of tests. How often will a lone halfling be hiding in the wilderness? How many times will a PC enter the gray ooze cave without knowing oozes are within?

    Now we can make a bit more sense of the fact that while the chance of finding secret doors or noticing traps is laid out, there is no mention in either the rulebook or B2 of a chance to find treasure. Most areas in B2 contains some treasure, but the module simply tells the DM where & how it is hidden. By describing how your PC goes about searching for treasure you definitively eliminate the only random factor—whether or not your PC decides to search—and thus the treasure is either found (if you look where it is) or missed (if you don't)."

    There was a MORE tag in the original post, but I don't know what was beneath it.

  3. I liked Delta's Target 20 system and extended it to a Target X idea where the X is the highest result of the roll possible. Target 6 for d6 rolls, Target 12 for 2d6, etc.

    To simply the list above, instead of saying 2 in 6 chance to Open Stuck Doors, you just say on a Target 6 roll you get a +1.

    I dislike the 2-in-6-chance notation because it implies a roll-low-to-succeed mechanic. Mathematically the same to say to roll a 5+ on a d6 or even 3 or 5 on a d6; doesn't matter. But if you stick to a "roll high is good" and use the Target X system, everything can be simplified to a bonus table.

    As above...
    Hear Noise
    Demi-humans +1
    Thieves +1 to +4
    Secret Doors: Elves +1
    Hiding, Indoors: Halflings +1
    Hiding, Outdoors: Halflings +4 (automatic?)
    Finding Traps: Dwarves +1



    1. I am a fan of Delta's Target 20 as well, however I also appreciate the different "feeling" that a d6 or a 2d6 roll goes for. Also if you read my 2d6 posts (regarding reaction rolls and turning undead) I don't think it's true that 2d6 implies "roll under" in any way.