Languages and HOW!

Two more (last for now?) tweaks to Heroes & Other Worlds before I’m ready to start running it.


Languages don’t count against the IQ limit on skills/spells known.

If you want languages to be a big factor in your setting, it’s counter-productive to place a tight limit on how many languages a character can know.  It’s even worse if knowing a language comes at the expense of a more practical skill. If Conan can learn to speak the local tongue wherever he goes, then that’s something I want player characters to be able to do.

This also means that if you’re using my skills raise attributes rule then a good way for a Wizard to increase IQ is to study lots of esoteric languages. I like that a lot.

On the Job Training

Borrowing from Rob Conley’s house rules for experience in GURPS by way of Runequest, I’m going to allow some extra XP for “on the job training.”

You get 100 XP for every 30 days of “On the Job Training.”

This is particularly applicable to learning new languages, since that means 30 days of immersion in the culture grants you enough XP to take the Language as a skill… and it doesn’t even count against your limit.  You could also use it to pick up other skills you’ve been practicing, such as sailing or riding camels, which is again a staple of pulp fiction…though those do count against your IQ limit.

Why not 1 XP every three days?  I really think it should be a block of training that you can explain by the adventures you are having and the culture you find yourself in.  A slow trickle of XP would, IMO, tend to get lost among the XP you’re getting for your skill checks.  Getting it in a chunk, and only if you’ve spend at least a month in a situation that counts as practicing the skill, gives a much more concrete sense of “I learned the ways of the Tiger-men tribe during our journey across the mountains.”  Update: after publishing this I decided to change it to 30 days (from 45), since month-by-month is way more convenient to track.

This seems particularly important in HOW, since in TFT if you want room for a new skill, you can always just bump up your IQ.  The IQ limits on skills in TFT were never one of my favorite parts of the system, since they seemed pretty arbitrary, but they did serve as a form of niche protection. In a class-based system, if you’re the party Rogue, say, then non-rogue characters aren’t likely to outshine you in your area of expertise, if they could even attempt the same tasks. In a pure skill-based system, particularly one where it’s stat+skill, you can be faced with the situation where somebody steals your thunder even though it’s entirely incidental to their character concept.  E.g. as Rogue you’re the party “Face”, using your Act/Disguise and Detect/Tell Lies skills… until the Wizard spends some points on taking the first level of each and is instantly better than you because of his high IQ.  The IQ limits on skills & spells make that a much less attractive proposition for the Wizard, who will have to forgo two of his precious spell slots for those extraneous skills.  So I’m probably going to let those stand, at least for now.  If it starts to seem too constraining down the road, I might liberalize it a little, for instance by allowing purchase of skills beyond the IQ limit for a higher price, or separating spells out from skill when it comes to the IQ barrier.