The Gassy Gnoll has been a slovenly soul for a few years now, growing plumper and slower so that eventually he would be the one devoured at the back of the pack because he really didn’t give a damn. But something changed a few months ago and now he wants to get back into some sort of shape. He’s not ready to hang up his bag of bones yet.
But as he started working out the other day, he wondered why we don’t see characters getting or attempting to stay in shape. Sure, it’s tough to imagine an adventurer who is shaped like a Gelatinous Cube, but if a character isn’t using a skill regularly – why wouldn’t it dull over time?
To give you some background here…
Any time I had a character in the past (up to, but not including 4e) I would put a little dot beside each skill I used during a session. This would tell me not only which skills I’d been relying on in-game, but also how often I’d used them since the last time I leveled up. It was a convenient way to track a rudimentary usage statistic without getting too complicated. Then, when it came time to level up I’d put a skill point or two in those areas that I’d used the most. But I never came up with a good way to model skills getting “rusty”. And 4e throws all that out the window because skills are more static than in previous editions, reacting more to stat and level bumps than individual skill prowess.
And there have always been aging rules you could apply. For example, to model middle-age, you gain Int and Wis, but lose some Str and Con. Youth grants you more Con and less Wis. Being old sucks the Str, Dex, and Con out of you but gives you a little more Wis. Etc. So if you wanted to model a wiser older adventurer going from middle age to “old”, you could handle that pretty well. But other than affecting skills through the stat bumps, it’s really not addressing the whole “dusty” skill problem.
When you apply it to combat skills, it gets even more entertaining.
If you have a true weapon master, the odds are that he or she trains incessantly. Whether it’s through sparring, some form of meditation or kata, or simply going somewhere to hack up a practice dummy or wall. Martial artists must practice and keep their bodies strong and limber. And many marksmen go through thousands and thousands of rounds (or arrows) in a year to keep their shooting skills honed to a fine edge.
During a role-playing campaign, your merry band of adventurers is often out there… on the edge… for days, weeks, months, even years trying to accomplish their goals or make names for themselves. If they’re lucky they may get to use a handful of their skills on a regular basis. They get lean and mean, honing those skills they have to use while they’re on a mission. But what happens to the rest of those skills? If my character has been fighting monsters and slogging through dungeons for years, how much Diplomacy or Insight are they going to have when they return to civilization?
Does anyone have a simple house rule that could take this into account? I just think if it’s been 100 years since your elven mage cast Magic Missile, maybe he’ll have to look it up. Or if it’s been a few months since you used that polearm, should it come back to you like riding a bike?
Maybe it’s unimportant in most campaigns. But I’d love to see a campaign that starts with a group of nobles who have grown old and fat and are called to stop some great evil when they’re out of shape and over the hill.
Who’s with me?