Someone asked for a simple skill system that would work with Swords and Wizardry Whitebox on one of the forums I read. I know there are a lot of this out there, but I’m sure there is room for one more. Here is a slightly edited version what I came up with (including my reasoning).
1) I hate skills as they are normally handled in D&D-type games as they tend to lock characters who don’t have the skill out of using it even though most skills in a “medieval-era” world should be things anyone would have at least some chance of success at, even with no training. Any skill system I would use would give even the unskilled a reasonable chance of success on all but the few skills that really can’t even be attempted (with a chance of success) by the untrained.
2) I dislike skills because too many players think all they should have to do is say “I use my X skill” instead of actually describing what they are doing — especially when it comes to interacting with others. Any rules for skills I would use must do their best to prevent this misuse (IMHO) of skills.
3) Pre-Greyhawk (that is, before thieves) 0e already has a limited skill system. For example, characters had a 1 in 6 chance of finding secret doors but certain races had a better (2 in 6) chance.
4) Most people prefer high rolls to be successful and such rolls make it easier to work with modifiers.
Rough Draft Skill System for S&W Whitebox:
Roll a six-sided die for skill success with the following rolls needed for success:
6+…….Untrained (no special racial/other affinity)
5+…….Untrained (with special racial/other affinity)
When a character can choose a skill, he can either select a new skill at Apprentice Level or raise a skill he currently has by one level (from Apprentice to Journeyman or from Journeyman to Master). I’d probably let characters select a couple of skills at first level and one at each level thereafter.
All skills (except those designated by the GM) may be attempted untrained.
The GM may give circumstantial modifiers to the roll (usually totaling from -3 to +3) where needed.
The player must describe what his character is doing in order to attempt the skill with any chance of success, this is especially true of “interaction with others” skills. Players who just say something like “I use my fast-talk skill to convince the guard to let me go” should fail automatically. The player should at least say something like “I’ll try to fast talk the guard into believing I have an important message for and that the guard should let me in to avoid get his ass chewed out for delaying the message.” Conversely, if what the player describes sounds like it should work, the GM should just say it works without requiring a skill roll. Rolling should not replace roleplaying, especially when it comes to interaction with others.
This is up to the GM. In my opinion, however, a small number of broad skills work better than a large number of narrow skills in a S&W Whitebox game.