Like many people I suspect, I spent most of Thanksgiving playing the new Elder Scrolls computer game Skyrim. The Elder Scrolls has always had an interesting skill based system that I thought might make a good paper and pencil RPG. This time they have boiled the stats and skills down to the mere essentials. Only three stats Magicka, Health, and Stamina. Eighteen skills broken down into three categories
Combat: Smithing, Heavy Armor, Block, Two handed, One Handed, and Archery
Stealth: Light Armor, Sneak, Lock picking, Pickpocket, Speech, and Alchemy
Magic: Illusion, Conjuration, Destruction, Restoration, Alteration, and Enchanting
I think 5 schools of magic much more wieldy than D&D traditional eight, and most of them seem to be well balanced in power. I need to remap the spells into a more d20 format.
I like that each of the paths has its own route for making things. I think the alchemy part is the one system I enjoy most although its a lot of book keeping for a pen and paper game, perhaps I just need to pass out reagent points as treasure. Enchanting runs a close second, although I'd just give out charge soul gems as treasure rather than having to charge them. I have yet to put together the evil little axe I used in Morrowind to conquer the world, it gave the damage it did back as health for me, the Gaulador Black blade seems similar but it does only 10 health per hit, and is constantly running out of charges. Smithing is O.K. but maybe not as powerful as the other two (or perhaps I haven't got the knack yet). I do wonder who makes all the pots and pans, clothing, wooden bowls, cups ecetera since all you can make is armor, perhaps I'll go back to 3rd editions craft. I will NOT be using 4th edition's "yeah you can make that, just mark of the gold you would spend to buy it" system.
Rather than use a check every time you use a skill (due bad experiences with Runequest) I think I'll go with using experience to buy skill levels. Skill checks will be done by rolling a d20 and adding you skill to beat a difficulty (not sure how the computer does it). I have to reserve judgement on the skill perks system until I understand it better. Playing my traditional battle mage wearing heavy armor and swinging a one handed axe, while throwing spells with the other I ended up with my perks scattered all over the map, including a few throw into enchanting and smithing. A more optimal character would be focused in a few skills and just buy stuff from NPCs, but who'd make the Fortify two handed while having 13% weakness to frost, and 4% barter increase potions then (Strangely enough the NPC seem to pay extra for the extra properties, and I'm more than happy to sell it to them 'cause I sure as heck ain't drinking it). Well I think the big computer is done rebooting, so its back to the land of Nords for me again. Unfortunately, either the graphics card or the sound system is a bit unstable cranking out the horse power needed for Skyrim, so its save early, save often and reboot as necessary. Fortunately I have played many such games before and am patient, I figure its just the computer saying "O.K. its time for a break to do other things".