I really can’t get off my soap box regarding adopting a “No Profession” system. One of the arguments I often hear for professions and profession assigned skill costs is that early character development locks in affinities that define the characters learning patterns for life.
For me, this is a perfect example of the Nature vs Nurture paradigm. “Nature” being defined as a characters stats and stat bonuses (natural aptitudes) and “Nurture” being defined as early influential training. Rolemaster assumes the primacy of “Nurture”: early choice of a Profession sets skill costs that influence the characters progression and development. However the rules themselves allow that paradigm to be easily broken. For instance a player can choose “Fighter” as a profession but spend all his developments points on thieving skills. At what point or level does continuous training of thieving skills outweigh the early choice of the Fighter profession? Should that character even call themselves a fighter?
I am firmly in the camp of “Nature”—that learning is driven more by innate, natural abilities, but that intensive, immersive training can eventual overcome natural talent. Even a weak, clumsy person can become a competent fighter with enough training and dedication. So if innate ability (Nature) is more important, it argues for the elimination of profession based skill costs and thus professions in general.
Ideally, the best solution might be skill costs set by stats or stat bonuses. I.e. a character with high physical stats would have lower costs for physical skills etc. While this makes intuitive sense it would be cumbersome in practical application. However, if you like the “Nurture” argument, RM and RMU rules are already poised to model this reality with just a few tweaks.
We achieved this via the following:
- First there needs to be an increase in the influence of stat bonuses. In RM2, stat bonuses are really only influential at the first few levels and then begin to diminish quickly as the skill rank bonus increases. We adopted the RMU stat bonuses and 3 stat per skill calculation to increase the benefit of stats.
- We set all skills costs to 5*. That doesn’t mean that skills cost the same for everyone: the increase in stat bonuses means that the real measure is the acquisition cost/skill bonus ratio.
- We adjusted the skill rank bonus progression to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….up to 10 and then it drops 1/rank back down to 1 again. This accomplishes several things—it increases the importance and influence of stat bonuses (by lowering skill bonuses) and reduces the benefit of picking up a handful of ranks in a skill to “max out” the rank bonus vs. acquisition cost. Plus, in general, this progression better models a natural learning curve.
- We introduced unlimited rank development. This allows a character to singularly focus on a skill to overcome innate limitations. But this comes at a high opportunity cost—each additional rank taken costs an additional 1DP/rank (this resets each level) so focusing on one or a handful of skills will allow a player to truly excel but at the cost of other skill development.
For our gaming group the application of three elements allows for fast character creation, flexible characters and a more intuitive modeling of character development in the Nature v. Nurture framework.
- Cultural Skill packages (Nurture) to reflect early development and culturally appropriate knowledge. This is non-stat influenced as it is skill transmission driven by society and culture.
- Vocational Skill Package (Nurture) to reflect young adult vocation, job or trade. This is non-stat influenced as it represents an early “career” decision, availability of vocations in a specific culture or the imperative of cultural norms (ie everyone must join the military).
- (Nature) Uniform skill costs, influential stat bonuses and unlimited rank development to give players maximum flexibility and cost/benefit decision making. This is stat dependent as detailed above.
For those that like Professions, this still allows the creation of creative, emulative or societal driven Cultural or Vocational training packages. Our Shadow World campaign has over 40 Cultural Packages and 50 Vocational Packages that can be combined to make thousands of interesting characters without the arbitrary dictums of Professional names or concepts.
Just my two cents—what’s yours?