Time, Gear & Skill: A Different Approach To Skill Checks

The following was written with Cairn in mind, but would work just as well for Into the Odd, Electric Bastionland and heck, D&D 5e if you’re doing a complete revamp.

Performing actions involves time, gear, and skill.

  • Generally, if you have none or one of the three, a task is impossible.
  • If you have all three, you do not need to roll – it just succeeds.
  • If you only have two, the task might involve a Save, with time or your gear being at stake if you fail.

Environmental factors/opportunities might act as a substitute for gear or skill.

Example: Lockpicking

Lockpicking a door requires no roll if you are skilled at lockpicking, are not in a hurry and have lockpicking tools available.

Lockpicking a door might require a DEX Save if you’re in a hurry yet have the skills and tools, with the risk being not finishing the task in time. It could also involve a WIL Save if you have time and skill, yet no tools, with you trying to improvise your tools.

Lockpicking a door is impossible with only one of the three:

  • You could stare at a lock all day with all the time in the world, but without gear and skill, nothing is going to happen.
  • You could be a skilled lockpicker, but in a hurry and without tools, there’s not much you can do.
  • You might have lockpick tools, but without the time to figure out how to use them, there’s no way you’ll manage it without skill.

3 thoughts on “Time, Gear & Skill: A Different Approach To Skill Checks

  1. I’ve been thinking along these lines, as well. How would you handle a situation where gear isn’t required, like climbing a surface with handholds, like a cave wall? I would default to treating that the same as if the player had the requisite gear (a free 1 of the 3).

    What comprises “enough time” will change from action to action, but I’m okay with this, as ai think common-sense and agreement around the table are all that are needed, there (and as much consistency in applying the rule as possible).

    1. Yeah, ‘environmental factors’ are a good alternative for ‘gear’. I would make sure to contrast it, I suppose:
      “You’re stuck in a cave, and the goblins are nearing the entrance. Next to you is a smooth cave wall [i.e. requires gear], and nearby you spot a wall that looks easier to climb [i.e. requires no gear], but reaching the other wall would require you to move out into the open, where the goblins might spot you. What do you do?”

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