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[Let's Read] The Palladium Roleplaying Game, AKA Palladium Fantasy First Edition

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Scale walls is a class skill for soldier (+12%) and thief (+10%) and available as an elective to assassin (+15%), palladin (+10%), longbowman (+6%), knight (+6%), squire (+4%), noble (+4%), peasant (+2%), ranger, warlock, witch and healer. It gives one percentage, which is the chance to climb fifteen feet. The percentage starts at 26%, rises to evens by fifth level and reaches 90% by twelfth level. The book says that a failed roll always means falling to the ground, which means losing one hit point for every six feet fallen. Having to string together successful rolls for long climbs sounds brutal but the falling damage listed isn’t all that bad. Correlating the probability of failing one of the sequence of necessary skill rolls with the maximum damage from falling and the mean hit points a character would have at the appropriate level gives the following results.

A character who has just taken the skill that level, with no bonus, will obviously fall attempting any climb most of the time but has more than a 90% chance of falling during a thirty foot climb. Fortunately, the five hit points they would lose falling thirty feet are unlikely to prove fatal. (Ninth level is the lowest at which a character with no bonus would be more likely to succeed a thirty foot climb than fail.) Even with the best class bonus, a first level assassin has a greater than 90% chance of falling during a forty-five foot climb. (An eighth level assassin would succeed in climbing forty-five feet just over half the time.)

In fact, the minimum level needed for an assassin to have an even-or-better chance of climbing a given distance is pretty high:
  • 15’ – third level (tenth level for a 90% or more chance of success)
  • 30’ – sixth level (tenth level for a 90% or more chance of success)
  • 45’ – eighth level (eleventh level, when the skill percentage goes over 100%, for a 90% or more chance of success)
  • 60’ – ninth level (a ninth level assassin would still have a better than even chance of success for a climb up to 90')
  • 105’ – tenth level (a tenth level assassin would still have a better than even chance of success for a climb of up to 195’)
  • 210’ – eleventh level (at which point an assassin can climb any distance with no chance of failure)
These may seem like absurd heights to climb but an average eleventh level human, elf, (hob-)goblin, orc, troglodyte or wolfen, twelfth level changeling or tenth level dwarf, kobold, ogre, troll or gnome would survive a fall of two hundred and eighty-eight feet, so they would be all right (after a-week-and-a-bit of medical care) even if they failed.

A druid with a rodent totem gets scale walls 70% – better than a fifth level assassin – at second or third level, and a druid with a feline totem gets 76% – better than a sixth level assassin. There are several other spells, magic items and so on which out-perform this skill, notably all the ones that enable a character to fly:
  • ‘Fly as the Eagle’, a third level spell from the main list, allows the target to fly with an effective Spd score of 45 (ie nine hundred yards a minute, or just over thirty miles an hour), with no limit on direction or stated flight ceiling and with some combat bonuses.
  • ‘Levitate’, a second level air warlock spell, enables the target to move vertically up to thirty feet in the air.
  • ‘Levitate (Self)’, a second level psionic power, enables the caster to move vertically to a height of twenty feet per level.
  • ’Phantom Footman’, a fourth level air warlock spell I mentioned above as substituting for the locate secret compartments/doors skill, also has potential here because the elemental summoned can carry up to 250lb (despite having a listed PS score of 20) and ‘still move at its maximum speed’, flying with Spd 25 (just over seventeen miles an hour).
  • As well as potions and magic items that reproduce the effect of ‘Fly as the Eagle’, flying carpets and brooms are listed at prices of thirty thousand gold or more.
There are many other ways to get to the top of a wall, of course, such as teleportation, summoning an entity capable of carrying you up, catching, taming and training a flying mount, and so on, and so on. I just thought it was worth listing a few of the most obvious and readily available ones that would give characters without the scale walls skill the same or superior capabilities.
 
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Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
Huh, is there no Flight spell{this is the spell you cast on a broom or carpet to make it fly}.
It's definitely is in later editions...
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Huh, is there no Flight spell{this is the spell you cast on a broom or carpet to make it fly}.
It's definitely is in later editions...
The spells in the second edition Palladium Fantasy RPG are based largely on the spells from Rifts, which were in turn based on the spells from the first edition of Beyond the Supernatural. Although the BtS and Rifts spells were clearly informed by the first edition of this game, the need to rework the mechanical details for the PPE magic system meant there were extensive re-writes and very little copy-and-paste in that stage of the process; also, a contemporary horror game naturally suggests different spells to an AD&D-inspired high fantasy game.
 
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Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Track is a class skill for ranger (+20%) and available as an elective to druid (+10%), soldier (+2%), mercenary, longbowman, palladin and peasant. It gives two percentages, one for outdoor tracking and one for indoors, and the write-up says that, as well as actually tracking animals and people, successful users can tell how old tracks are and (approximately) how many individuals made them. The outdoor percentage begins at 20%, rises to 54% by sixth level and 90% by thirteenth. The indoor percentage starts at 2%, rises to 11% by sixth level and tops out at 40%.

Several spells and abilities are competition for skilled trackers:
  • ‘Spirit of the Wolf’, a fourth level spell from the main list, gives the target various sensory upgrades including a variable track percentage based on the age of the trail: up to three hours 80% – equal to a seventh level ranger; up to a day 60% – better than a third level ranger; more than a day 20% – equal to a first level mercenary, longbowman, palladin or peasant. (This does rather raise the question of how old a trail has to be before you can’t use the track skill on it, and why the skill has no modifiers listed for the age of the trail.)
  • Our old friend ‘Eyes of the Wolf’ (main list, fifth level) gives, inter alia, track 50% – equal to a second level ranger outdoors and better than a twelfth level ranger indoors (I assume these spell-granted percentages are only for outdoor use).
  • ‘Track’, a second level earth warlock spell, grants the target track 77% – better than a sixth level ranger – for ten minutes per caster level.
  • A druid with a canine totem receives track 79% – better than a sixth level ranger or an eighth level druid who took the skill at first level – at second or third level.

Comparing this skill with identify tracks, both are class skills for ranger and both are available as electives to mercenary, soldier, longbowman palladin, peasant and druid. (The class bonuses for the two skills are within 5% of each other for the classes that can take both, with slightly higher bonuses for identify tracks overall.) Knight, assassin, scholar and shaman can take identify tracks but not track, which raises the question of what you would do with that skill on its own. As noted above, the identify tracks skill is used to recognise what made tracks and (using a separate percentage) ‘recognize false tracks/ trails’, while the track skill is used to ‘follow tracks (footprints), trails of passage (broken branches, flattened grass, spore [sic], etc.)’ and ‘discern how recent the tracks/trail is and the approximate number of creatures.’ This can be done indoors with a much lower percentage.

The first supplement for this game, Book II: Old Ones, has a page of rules for hunting and trapping animals (p16), which says, under the heading ‘the advantages of tracking skills’:

If the character has an identify tracks skill he may recognize animal tracks and be able to determine if a particular type of animal has been in the area. This means that there is a 25% chance of successfully hunting a particular type of animal.

If the character has a track skill he can attempt to hunt a specific type of animal (or even a particular animal) by following tracks and other signs. This means that whenever an animal is rolled on the Game Animal Encounter Tables there is a 50% chance of it being the animal hunted/tracked. That is if the character does not lose its trail; roll under skill percentage once every 15 minutes. If the trail is lost there is still a 32% chance of stumbling across the particular animal.

Trap and skin animal skills also provide a certain degree of knowledge about animal habits which provides a 40% chance of successfully hunting a particular type of animal.
(The ‘Game Animal Encounter Tables’ are four random encounter tables on the previous two pages featuring game animals native to four different types of terrain.)

The only skills mentioned as directly relevant to hunting are prowl and weapon proficiencies (special d20 tables are provided for rolling to hit large game and small game, for which a character’s bonus to strike is used), so I suppose the process is one of not disturbing any animals in the area (using the prowl skill) and then just attacking desired game that comes into range. As I read the first quoted paragraph above, the utility of the identify tracks skill described above is that a successful roll against the skill (or possibly just having the skill at all) enables a character to roll for a 25% chance of the desired animal being in the area, following which use of the prowl skill and rolls on the special d20 tables would be used to kill one. Interestingly, the third paragraph quoted above seems to say that having (or rolling?) the trap/skin animal skills (either? Both? I assume it depends on what you’re hunting) gives a 40% chance of the same thing, so the indentify tracks skill seems descidedly inferior for hunting, let alone trapping.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
The procedure described for using the track skill seems to be that you roll against your skill percentage every fifteen minutes of game time to find or keep on the trail of the desired animal, continued success meaning that rolls on the random game animal table are preceded by a 50% chance to encounter the animal being tracked. Book II p14 specifies that rangers roll on the random game animal encounter tables every half hour (as well as having the best class bonus for track) and all other classes roll every hour. ‘If the trail is lost there is still a 32% chance of stumbling across the particular animal’, I suppose, means that tracking a particular animal but rolling one or more failures against the track skill still means that rolls on the random game animals tables are preceded by a 32% chance to encounter the desired animal.

If my interpretation of those rules is correct, then a ranger would have an hourly probability (rolling twice for a game animal encounter) of encountering the desired animal of 58% at first level, rising to 79% at fifteenth level. A druid would have a comparable hourly probability of 32% at the first level they took the skill, rising to 51% at the fourteenth and fifteenth. A soldier would have 32% at the first level, rising to 46% at the fifteenth, and a mercenary, longbowman, palladin or peasant would have 32% at the first level, rising to 45% at the fifteenth. (These figures are all rounded to the nearest percentage point, of course.)

These chances are all pretty middling, due partly to the fact that rolling repeated successes only gives an even chance of the desired encounter and failure still gives nearly one chance in three. The ranger’s overall advantage over classes with no bonus is a difference of 26%-36% in the hourly probability of success, comparable to their class bonus of 20%.

Trap/skin small animals and trap/skin large animals are similar in use so I’ll look at them together.

Trap/skin small animals, which applies to animals such as ‘rabbit, beaver, squirrel, weasel, fox, etc.’, is a class skill for peasant (+10%) and available as an elective to ranger (+20%), druid (+15%), longbowman (+5%), squire (+5%), mercenary (+4%), knight (+4%), palladin (+4%), healer (+2%), soldier and mind mage. Trap/skin large animals, which applies to ‘deer, moose, wolf, bear, etc.’, is available as an elective to ranger (+10%), druid (+6%), knight (+2%) and palladin.

Trap/skin small animals gives two percentages, one to trap and one to skin (and treat the pelt to preserve it and make it useable), whereas trap/skin large animals, the write-up for which says it is ‘identical to the one preceding it [ie trap/skin small animals] except that it pertains to large animals’, only gives one percentage: presumably this is both the chance to trap and the chance to skin a bear or whatever. The chance to trap a small animal starts at 20%, rises to 52% by fifth level and 90% by tenth. The chance to skin a small animal starts at 24%, rises to 56% by fifth and goes over 90% by eleventh. The chance to trap (and the chance to skin, I assume) a large animal starts at 20%, rises to 50% by fourth level and 90% by tenth.

I assume the reason for having two separate skills is to distinguish characters who can catch a rabbit or something to eat when out in the countryside from those who can catch and skin bigger game. The ranger and the druid are obviously rural types, so it makes sense for them to have the trap/skin large animals skill, but I am not sure why knights and palladins are expected to trap large animals, let alone skin them, while merchants, for example, can do neither, especially when Book II p16 says:
The purpose of trapping is to capture and/or kill an animal without damaging the pelt so that it can be skinned, treated and sold on the commercial market.
 

Unka Josh

Social Justice Game Dev
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The procedure described for using the track skill seems to be that you roll against your skill percentage every fifteen minutes of game time to find or keep on the trail of the desired animal [...]
AUUUUGGGHHHHH!

I hate it when games do the "Make X skill checks in a row" thing. It's like probability math just takes a holiday.
 

Erik Sieurin

Translemurist
RPGnet Member
Validated User
A reflection: A trap to catch a rabbit and a trap to catch a moose would require different investment in time and equipment, I'd think. Capture pits for moose are a common archeological find around here; rabbit snares aren't leaving traces. So to speak...
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
I hate it when games do the "Make X skill checks in a row" thing. It's like probability math just takes a holiday.
Well, it's pretty common in these skill rules: the disguise skill and the forgery skill require a roll every time someone inspects your work, leading to a sequence of rolls that you have to pass all of; the climbing skill and the impersonate voices skill (see below) require a roll every fifteen feet or six minutes (respectively) to keep going. And it's not as though the maths takes a holiday, exactly, so much as that the drop in the probability of actual success as you add roll after roll isn't clearly an intended feature of the rules.
 
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