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Every Day Dungeon Master: Skills Streamlined

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Welcome back Tabletop Titans! Some of you have already powered your way through your skills list and found that playing the game has become bogged down and slow. After looking at if it is your players, or some other facet of your rules, you have decided that this change in tempo is completely my fault.

That hurts, it really does.

But never fear, I have some hints to help you crank up the speed of player turns and subsequently events.

The very first hint that I am going to throw at you is to remove any needlessly complex rules. I recall my days playing Dungeons and Dragons third edition and the magic seemed so complex that I felt if I could figure it out, I would literally be able to cast a fireball. That kind of complexity can turn people off an entire mechanic, and for someone brave enough to dive in, can really slow you down. So step number one, make sure your mechanics are simple enough to fit on the character sheet. If it fits, then you can probably sleep easy knowing your players can figure it out at a glance and move on. This way, even complexity becomes simple.

If you are still having some issues with speed, try narrowing down your list of skills. If you have skills that allow you to build different things separately, maybe you can lump them all under a single craft skill. Still too much, or you don’t like the logic that a player has a lot of points in crafting something, but can’t repair it? Lump everything into repair! If you have gone so far as to make a skill for each sense, I suggest narrowing it down to three skills: Spot, Listen, and Sense. The first two are basically must-haves for any game, and anything less, like smelling, tasting, trying to feel something or even that elusive feeling that someone is watching you can all be lumped into Sense.

Now, if for some reason your game is still bogged down and you feel that it is because of your skills set up I have two more suggestions. First off, make sure that whatever math formulas you have for your skills are on the character sheet, and that players have them filled in. It is a common situation for players to only fill in some of the formula if some of the numbers are subject to change, such as special bonuses from items or if the skill gets a bonus from an attribute on your character is semi permanent, like their strength, speed, or intelligence.

The second and, in my opinion, last ditch effort in streamlining skills is do away with skill proficiencies altogether. For instance, if you normally have a skill level and then add an attribute bonus to it, you could potentially just use the attribute bonuses that apply. So, if you have the skill Acrobatics and normally you use your skill points of 10 and your speed is at 10 so you add an extra one to the roll, you would basically say that your skill in Acrobatics is your dice roll +10 + 1. With this new way, you would say your skills is dependent on how strong and fast you are. So instead, you just add your dice roll and whatever bonuses you get from speed and strength. This way you don’t have to have a different formula and set of numbers for each skill, just attribute bonuses.

Alternatively, there is a game system called Phase Shift that takes a different but just as effective kind of streamlining. When rolling for a skill, you don’t have to wait for the DM to figure out what difficulty level you have to reach. Instead, everyone knows they have to beat a level of 15. Knowing the target does help speed things up and this may just be the work around for you.

So did any of my advice help? Have you twenty-minute character turns become actions as fast as you can draw your trusty D20? Did you have any insights on streamlining skill checks? Hit me up in the comments.

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