It’s something every candidate promises to do, but most of them are lying. Just about everything costs more because of taxes. Is it too much to ask that game systems not include taxes as well?
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “What on Oerth are you talking about?”
I’m talking about skill and feat taxes built into the 3.5 system. These taxes require you the player to purchase certain skills or have certain feats to do neat things. To a certain extent, this is unavoidable (much like real taxes). After all, the 3.5 system isn’t free-form. It provides mechanics to quantify and resolve character actions for a variety of tasks. On the other hand, the system itself seems to spawn new taxes. Let’s look at one example.
Improved Feint lets your PC feint in combat as a move action for the cost of two feats (including the prerequisite). Unless your character is human or a fighter, this feat is unavailable at 1st-level. Is the ability to feint as a move action really something that ought to cost two feats (and, for many characters, require your PC to be at least 3rd level)?
I don’t think so. I think characters should be able to do more for less. This is part of the reason why I’ve written Fencing & Firearms to include universal feats and to give you more bang for your BAB. It’s also why I’m borrowing some OGL from True20 and implementing these modifications to the way skills work.
You can take a calculated risk on one check to make a follow-up check easier. You accept a -5 penalty (or +5 DC bonus) to the first check in exchange for a +5 bonus (or -5 DC penalty) to the second check. The two checks must be related and the first, penalized check cannot be a check on which you take 20.
For example, a character faces a difficult climb. He uses Search to look for handholds along the climb route, taking a -5 penalty against the DC set by the DM. If successful, he finds a suitable route and gets a +5 bonus on a Climb check.
Or, another example: The party is split up by a chasm and are fighting orcs on both sides. The wizard has been cornered on the other side of the chasm from the rogue. The fighter accepts a -5 penalty on his Acrobatics check to move through one orc’s space in order to get a +5 bonus on the check to leap across the chasm to help the wizard.
Calculated risks require some narrative imagination and common sense adjudication by the DM.
You reduce the time needed to complete the check by accepting a -5 penalty to check or a +5 bonus to the check’s DC. If the check is normally a full-round action, it becomes a standard action. An standard action becomes a move action, while a move action becomes a free action. For checks requiring time in rounds, minutes, or longer, reduce the time needed by 25 percent per -5/+5 modifier, to a maximum 75% reduction.
For example, using Bluff to feint in combat is usually a standard action. A character could accept a -5 penalty to his check in order to feint as a move action.
Or, another example: Opening a lock is normally a full-round action. If the rogue is in a hurry, he can use fast task to use Disable Device to pick the lock as a standard action. Of course, he first wants to search for traps, normally a move action. Using fast task, he can use Perception to look for traps as a free action.
You can accept a challenge in order to perform two checks simultaneously. To attempt simultaneous checks, make the challenge check, followed by a second check using the same or a different trait. Your secondary check suffers a –10 penalty or a +10 increase in Difficulty. The combined task requires the same time as the longest normal task, so if both tasks require a standard action, you accomplish the simultaneous use in a single standard action rather than two.
For example, a character being grappled by ogre can use simultaneous tasks to use Escape Artist to get out of the grapple and then use Bluff to create a distraction. Both actions take a single standard action to accomplish.
These sorts of changes to the game accomplish two goals important to Spes Magna Games. First, these changes maintain compatibility. We’re not completely re-inventing the wheel. Fencing & Firearms can be used with 3.5 and Pathfinder. Second, these changes give players more options without imposing a tax on skill points and feats.