Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Proficiencies: Baldur's Gate

When I first started this I never expected I'd make it to 100 posts (and I passed it a while ago).  I started this blog as a way to bounce ideas around, to get a better idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to implement them.  Plus, I needed to start writing again because if I wanted to put together a book I better return to my eloquent ways.  That said this is a post I've been working on for a while.

Proficiencies are often overlooked given how irritatingly they are presented and implemented and I think we can change that but first lets take a look at what we've got so far.  In ye olde days of AD&D you had proficiency points and you knew where to put them, actually you didn't.  See you might throw them into longsword but if you pick up a magical rapier later on you might be kicking yourself because you're not going to be getting a proficiency point for the next says 2-6 levels.  Similarly, you could use proficiency points to specialize into a weapon (or style) receiving great benefits but doing so makes you must less likely to deviate it from your path or to use other weapons you may find unless they are superlatively cool.  In computer games, such as Baldurs Gate, you may take a look at what weapons are available to see which of these cool artifacts you wish to wield against the forces of evil.

"Evil, meet my sword! SWORD! MEET! EVIL!"

I may decide that the Holy Avenger is the coolest thing since sliced bread and create a Paladin (or Thief) to use it, likewise perhaps I find the special ability of Celestial Fury very worthwhile, or perhaps I desire to dual wield and have picked out two lighter weapons to wreak havoc with.  Even with that bit of metagaming knowledge you might not even get the weapon(s) for quite some time so investing your points into a certain weapon type (weapon categories were offered in some supplements) was still a gamble because you might not find a weapon, or in the case of Baldurs Gate, your weapon might break.

My hard earned 75GP!
I strongly applaud the design decision that lead to poisoned ore and breakable weapons.  There is no better way to introduce penalizing game mechanics than to tie them into the world and make them solvable.  When my two-handed sword broke after my feeble level 1 hands scrimped and saved for it I was livid.  I did not curse the game though, I cursed my own misfortune, and for tarrying so long that I did not head directly to the Nashkell mines.  While the world was so exciting to explore this compelled me to push forward and leave my side-adventures for the time.  I like it a hell of a lot better than the ticking clock Fallout hangs over your head.  I will admit that the daily countdown suits the Fallout setting perfectly.
My kingdom for a waterchip

I find proficiencies irritating.  If I find a new weapon or even a generic sword +1 I'd like to use it without suffering some huge penalty.  Don't get me started on how lack of ranged proficiencies makes your fragile Thief twiddle their thumbs in combat or ineptly fire arrows hoping for a Natural 20.  Furthermore, being penalized because I arbitrarily put points into axes and the treasure arbitrarily decided to send a +1 flail my way is pointlessly frustrating.  Now of course the DM could twiddle away the results into something you're proficient in but that takes a deal of verisimilitude out of the game for me.  Not every weapon you find should be the one train in, so how do we rectify this?

Well you could always have each class assign blanket proficiencies.  It works pretty well and is yet another advantage OD&D has over AD&D.  Of course the moment you start playing with specialization you fall into the same pit-trap.  Specializing in one weapon highly discourages you from using any other unless it provided a magical boost equivalent or equal to what you've already got.  I like my Fighter to be a master of arms, yet every game I've played in I rarely see more than a pair of weapons being used.  To combat that I don't penalize people for being non-proficient in a weapon.  Instead I give them a benefit for being proficient in their weapon, I'll get to that in a later post.