Addendum to Chapter 5: Ability Checks & Skills

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Addendum to Chapter 5: Ability Checks & Skills

Post by LimeOdyssey »

Addendum to Chapter 5: Ability Checks & Skills

A College is a place of learning where people can learn new skills. Colleges teach groups of skills, usually in sets of four skills. These packages reflect the skills required to be various sorts of Specialist.

Entry requirements for most common Colleges are simply to meet whatever fee they charge and to attend class to learn the new skill that the character wants to pick up. However some Colleges that teach unusual skills have much more restrictive entry requirements ranging from having 18 Charisma to belonging to a particular race, class, bloodline or culture.

Once someone graduates from a College there is little real connection between them and the College they went to.

If someone learns all four of the skills that a College offers, then they have become qualified. A qualified character can always work as the Specialist type that the four skills qualify them to be, at whatever the standard rate of earning is for that profession. However working as what amounts to a NPC in someone else’s stronghold takes up all of that character’s time for the duration of the period the hiring character has paid for.

Trade Colleges teach practical physically oriented skills or skills devoted to Craft, Perform and other skills that produce an effect. Arts Colleges as the name suggests focus on Arts subjects especially painting, drawing, singing, performance but also history and other Humanities. Arcane Colleges teach Chemistry and many other strange skills that no one other than a Magic-User or would-be Construct maker would be interested in.

Colleges that band together form Universities. Each University must have at least two Colleges teaching at least eight skills in total between them. Universities receive a Charter from a noble who is of sufficient rank to rule a Dominion. The Charter specifies legal exemptions, freedoms, licences and approvals that the University enjoys. Frequently the exemptions protect Universities from charges of blasphemy, nuisance, breaches of etiquette and laws that would normally prosecute them for insulting nobles. This is to allow the research and inquiry higher learning tends to require.

The Specialists listed in Chapter 5 of Dark Dungeons are all considered College trained for human and demihuman characters, even if they do not have particular sets of four skills identified in the rules.

Guilds are a combination of College and class. They are Colleges that only teach skills and weapon feats to a particular class, and they almost always also offer other side benefits. Joining a Guild is usually expensive, and some Guilds also require the new member to learn an Argot – a new language peculiar to the class and Guild.
For example a Thieves’ Guild requires the new entrants to learn a language called Thieves’ Argot, an impenetrable code language that allows criminals to talk openly amongst other people because no one else can understand their weird slang. Thieves’ Guilds restrict membership to the Thief class.

Likewise some Elves belong to what amount to Guilds, although they are not usually called Guilds but rather Houses or Trees. Again, Elf Houses or Elven Trees teach their members skills no one else can obtain and also provide access to spells no one else can learn because no other records of the spells exist.

Guilds maintain a permanent presence in a character’s life once they join, going so far in some cases as to expect loyalty and obedience, and even for a character to go on quests for the Guild Masters. Characters who rebel against this risk being kicked out of the Guild and shut off from its unique skills and other rewards, and in the case of the more sinister Guilds there may even be threats of violence or death from the Guild to someone who refuses to continue to contribute to it.

Guilds can be divided into three types: Operative, Speculative and Passive.

Operative Guilds are all devoted to a particular adventuring class, demihuman race or alignment. They are in effect a cult without an Immortal (usually) and belonging to one permanently alters the course of a character’s life, as well as consuming a significant amount of their time with guild meetings, fund raisers, minor quests, elections and politics and social events. This sort of insular zealous Guild always issues threats to delinquent members. Operative Guilds usually charge a character 10% of all their treasure’s value in Guild dues, each month, payable at the end of the month. The Guild uses spies and magic to detect how much treasure has been obtained. They also use debt collectors, thugs, spies and Magic-Users to collect on unpaid dues. The good side of their rapacious money grubbing is that they almost without exception provide one free spellcasting to bring the member back from the dead as best they can achieve. They go so far as to send Guild members on missions to recover mortal remains of dead Guild members, especially if the departed person was a good earner for the guild.

Speculative Guilds usually have a single stronghold or castle at their disposal. All members of the Guild have to go back to this stronghold, or a major chapterhouse that this stronghold maintains in their local area, if they want to learn any of the unusual skills (or spells or weapon feats etc.) that the Guild owns. However, this sort of Guild never chases lapsed or negligent members. If they turn up again for more teaching this sort of Guild simply charges them a fortune in back fees before any teaching is available. There’s no special effort, beyond what local laws allow, to recover unpaid debts, but they will never teach a bad debtor again. Speculative Guilds also tend to have exotic handshakes, argot type coded language and a lot of very odd philosophical beliefs, most of which are harmless rather than part of the plot of some sinister Immortal of Chaos. Usually.

Passive Guilds are little more than social clubs with excellent records. They provide most of the skills in the normal campaign that don’t come from individual teachers and make no trouble for anyone.

There is no reason for any GM to use Colleges, Guilds or Universities or any part of this addendum to Chapter 5 of Dark Dungeons. It is a way however to flesh out the Settled areas of the world, and also detail how characters learn their skills. It can provide many adventure hooks as well as provide a source of books, scrolls and maps.

The Bard
This Specialist is used in some cultures as an impartial and unimpeachable witness. The Bard’s normal function is as a living repository of record keeping and genealogies as well as to sing instructional, inspiring or satirical songs.
Skills: History (local aristocratic bloodlines), History (births, deaths and marriages), Perform (song), Craft (songwriting)
Bards frequently belong to a Speculative Guild of some sort. This Guild is usually open to literally anyone who is prepared to learn all four of the skills that they teach.

The Jester
The Jester is a Specialist employed in noble courts to entertain the aristocracy, create or dissipate tension and tell jokes. There is a traditional exemption from the normal consequences of breaching etiquette for Jesters. Up to a point.
Skills: Perform (stand up comedy), Insult, Perform (comedy song), Peform (physical comedy)
Jesters don’t tend to attend College, but some circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name.

The Acrobat
Acrobats are physical performers capable of great feats of Dexterity.
Skills: Tumbling, Escape Artist, Tight Rope Walk, Gymnastics
Acrobats don’t tend to attend College, but some circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name.

The Fortune Teller
This Specialist uses intriguing looking decks of cards, a (usually completely non-magical) crystal ball and props such as an incense burning bowl or weird statues of unknown Immortals to create the impression that she is in touch with the primal forces of the cosmos, and the Immortals speak through her.
Skills: Cold Reading, Storytelling, Sense Motive, Perform (fortune telling)
Fortune Tellers don’t tend to attend College, but some circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name. Some Fortune Tellers belong to Gypsy Tribes, a specialized form of Operative Guild for the Human (Gypsy) and player characters could belong to the Gypsy race of humans and “attend” this form of College.

The Charlatan
A Charlatan is a stage magician. If the character is also a spellcaster then they may “cheat” and use real magic in their act. The point of their performance is to leave people wondering how the hell they did their tricks, and if they did use real magic or not. Charlatans try and avoid any entanglement with real spellcasters, for fear of being assaulted if they pretend to arcane powers they do not really possess. However they do cultivate a deliberate air of being terribly mysterious. This Specialist could be a member of a class that can’t use magic such as a Thief, or a member of a race that can’t cast Magic-User spells such as a Dwarf. But no one will ever be 100% certain that the character doesn’t command some sort of arcane power if their stage magic is good enough.
Skills: Sleight of Hand, Perform (magic act), Escape Artist, Craft (magic trick)
Charlatans attend regular Colleges but waste their time in class learning stage magic on the sly instead of whatever skills they were meant to learn. Some of them learn their profession at a circus concession or similar fairground, or in a theater of a city or large town. Circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name.

The Hermit
Hermits are solitary people who live extremely simple lives, wearing little more than a robe or sometimes animal furs, and spending their time when not interrupted wandering around a local area pondering things and receiving obscure inspiration. Their chief function as a Specialist is to advise Knights (Fighters who have taken vows) on matters relating to their adherence to their vows, how better to serve their Immortal or their faith, and sometimes to provide guidance or clues to whatever quest or adventure the Knight or Knights have currently undertaken. Hermits never accompany Knights on their adventures but sometimes they will travel to the location of the adventure to be nearby when needed.
Skills: Good Advice, First Aid, Find Clue, Riddles
Hermits are educated by Holy Orders that function as Operative Guilds. These Orders are only open to zealot members of a specific religion or cult and all Hermits are dedicated members of some Holy Order. This type of Holy Order demands ALL of the treasure a Hermit earns, but Hermits don’t care.

The Mummer
The Mummer is a specialist usually employed to perform silent play acting in a stronghold, especially during scheduled feasts, holy days and during times of crisis as a distraction for common folk. Mummers dress in bizarre brightly painted costumes and cosmetics and mime out a role or a message, usually relating to great heroes or Immortals. Other common play acting is for a pair of Mummers to run around a crowd pretending to be a Knight fighting a Dragon or an Orc menacing a Maiden and so on.
Skills: Perform (Mime), Dance, Craft (Costume), Acting
Mummers don’t tend to attend College, but some circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name. Some Mummers attend Arts College and are actually from very prosperous families.

The Jongleur
Jongleurs are jugglers and masters of sleight of hand. They juggle balls, daggers (-4 on skill check) or even live lizards (-8 on skill check) for the entertainment of their lord or of a crowd of commoners.
Skills: Juggle, Public Speaking, Perform (magic act), Begging
Jongleurs don’t tend to attend College, but some circuses and carnivals function as Schools for Scoundrels, effectively a College in all but name. Some Jongleurs learn their skills whilst they are at a College learning a more typical and better paid profession.


The idea is to allow players to have a class or demihuman race equivalent of a class, then scratch whatever Bard or Jester related itch at the same time. If someone genuinely wants to play a singing minstrel or a celtic Bard, then they can, based on skills and function in society, rather than it being a very vaguely flavoured Magic-User/Fighter that in fact always ends up being overpowered and pretty damned un-Bard-like.

Basing these things on skills also lets a player tailor it to their heart's content. Add a Play Harp skill to Mr. Bard with another use of a skill slot.

It also lets a GM create Colleges, Universities and Guilds, as well as weird equivalents of Guilds, to flesh out a campaign. You could do a Hogwarts with this for example, or a Gypsy tribe, or a Cult. or the Lankhmar type Guilds.

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