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

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Religious doctrine has the following class bonuses: summoner and priest get +30%, knight and diabolist +20%, palladin and wizard +15%, scholar, merchant, noble, witch and mind mage +10%, healer +6%, warlock and shaman +5% and soldier +4%. It gives one percentage, which ‘indicates the degree of knowledge’ a character has of the ‘history, rituals, practices, general philosophy, laws, religious hierarchy, and gods’ of eight specific ‘churches, sects and/or cults’. The skill may be taken more than once to cover multiples of eight religions: there are twenty-six listed in the religions section of this book, including the religions of druids and warlocks (which can presumably be followed by other classes, although it’s not clear whether you could play a priest or shaman of either, since they don’t have write-ups for any deities, unless major elementals are the deities of elementalism). Also included in the list of religions is ‘demon and devil worship’, which would appear to be covered for the purposes of this skill by the demon and devil lore skill. The percentage begins at 18%, rise to 50% by fifth level and 90% by tenth: a summoner or priest taking this skill three times at character creation would know everything about (almost) all religions by eighth level.

By analogy with the racial histories skill, I would be inclined to say that a practitioner of a particular religion – that is, a character whose player has specified that they belong to a particular church, sect or cult and followed that up in play – would have the sort of knowledge this skill provides about their own religion. Given that extrapolation from the book, I would expect membership of a given religion to substitute for this skill and, for races that are described as having a particular religious affiliation (such as kobolds, who are described in their write-up as worshipping devils and demons, or goblins, who are described in the religion’s write-up as favouring Kirgi the rat god), I suppose racial histories might substitute for this skill. You could extrapolate in a different direction and attribute religious knowledge to members of classes – or characters from regions – that are listed as favouring particular religions.

Apart from all that, though, I think the only abilities that could substitute for this skill are the priest’s and shaman’s information-gathering abilities. As for pro-active use of this skill, I suppose it’s a lot like demon and devil lore except (sometimes) more socially acceptable.

Sailing has the following class bonuses: warlock gets +12%, druid +10%, noble +6% and longbowman +5%. It gives one percentage, which represents ‘a rudimentary knowledge about boats and the principles of sailing.’ I assume that’s supposed to imply that having this skill doesn’t make a character a sailor rather than indicating that even a high percentage leaves you a bit rubbish at the skill. (The sailor class introduced in Book III: Adventures on the High Seas doesn’t have this skill as a class skill but does give it a +20% class bonus.) The percentage begins at 21%, rises over 50% by sixth level and over 90% by eleventh.

No spells or abilities are close substitutes for this skill but many warlock spells, such as ‘Calm Storm’, ‘Salt Water to Fresh’, ‘Ride the Waves’ and ‘Calm Waters’, could either be useful in combination with this skill or substitute for it in certain narrowly defined conditions.

As for pro-active use, I can only really see a player deciding to use this skill (as opposed to being asked to use it by the GM) if there’s a boat handy, which, unless there’s quite a lot of player narrative control, is going to be pretty much the GM’s call.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Sense of direction has the following class bonuses: mind mage gets +20%, ranger and druid +15%, longbowman, scholar, warlock and diabolist +10%, summoner +8%, healer +6%, mercenary and peasant +5%. It gives one percentage, which ‘includes basic knowledge of determining direction by the placement of the sun, moon, stars, and other tricks used in establishing (recognizing) one’s location’, which reads to me like it’s just a navigation skill but the book also says it’s ‘a developed skill, especially when travelling in wildernesses or underground.’ The write-up, confusingly, ends by saying a failed roll means ‘the character is not likely to realize that he is lost or misdirected’, which would imply that a successful roll means the character is likely to realise they’re lost or misdirected, but I assume a successful roll would rather prevent the character from becoming lost. The percentage starts at 35%, rises over 50% by third level and to 90% by tenth: a mind mage has a better-than-even chance of succeeding when they first take the skill and becomes infallible with it when they’ve had it for six levels. Nothing is said about how often to roll against this skill.

Our old friend ‘Spirit of the Wolf’ (a fourth level spell off the main list, you will recall), gives a 90% chance with this skill – better than a mind mage who’s got the skill at fourth level. Apart from that, there aren’t really any spells or abilities that are close substitutes, although things like the ‘Sense Magic’ psionic power (mentioned above when I was looking at the recognise weapon quality skill) and the various teleportation abilities (two spells, one magic circle, one or two psionic powers and some magic weapons and magic items) could obviously get around the need for this skill sometimes.

A number of spells and other abilities suppress or foil the target’s sense of direction utterly:
  • ‘Schizophrenia’, a sixth level spell from the main list, can do, subject to a saving throw and a random roll
  • ‘Havoc’, a tenth level spell from the main list, does, subject to a save against magic
  • ‘Sandstorm’, a fourth level earth warlock spell, does: it’s not clear whether a successful save avoids this particular effect
  • the ward ’Confusion’ does
  • two of the ‘natural potions, powders and drugs’ sold by alchemists and described on p138 (‘mental confusion’ and ‘hallucinations’) do.
That seems like a lot of abilites specifically described as preventing successful use of this skill: I suppose the skill must have been very useful in playtesting and it seemed like an entertaining twist to neutralise it on occasion.

As for pro-active use, this seems like another skill that’s a solution in search of a problem. It might enable activities that would otherwise be impractical (eg finding one’s way through a maze or maze-like complex) but, absent quite a bit of player narrative control, this does seem like another skill that requires the GM to carefully set up opportunities to use.

Sing has the following class bonuses: noble gets +15%, priest, shaman and healer +10%, scholar +8%, knight, palladin and peasant +5%. It gives one percentage, which ‘indicates the relative level of quality and skill.’ The percentage starts at 30%, rises to 50% by third level and 90% by ninth: a noble with this skill will reach over 100% ‘quality and skill’ by the eighth level they’ve had it. I suspect anything ueful I might have to say about this skill is already covered by what I’ve put under the dance and play instruments skills above.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Speak additional languages, despite being a secondary skill, is a class skill for mind mage (who gets three languages at +40%), wizard (two at +40%), scholar (two at +35%), merchant (two at +30%), priest of gods of darkness (+26%), warlock and healer (two each at +25%), priest of gods of light (+25%), druid (two at +20%), peasant and shaman (+20%). Diabolist gets +50%, summoner +30%, knight, palladin and noble +20%, ranger and assassin +15%, mercenary and thief +10%, soldier and squire +8% and longbowman +5%. It gives one percentage, which ‘indicates the degree of understanding and ability to successfully communicate in that tongue.’ the skill only gives ability in one additional language but may, of course, be taken multiple times for multiple additional languages. The book says, ‘While many people cannot read or write, most can understand and speak one or more languages (other than their own native tongue).’ The percentage begins at 30%, rises to 50% by third level and 90% by seventh. As with the read/write skills, there is a +10% bonus for characters with an IQ score of at least 12.

  • ‘Tongues’, a second level spell off the main list (and a common knowledge spell known to all wizard characters), gives the caster or a target they touch the ability to understand and speak all languages for ten minutes per level of the caster.
  • ‘The Faeries’ Tongue’, a third level spell from the main list, enables the caster to understand and speak ‘all of the faerie languages’. (The language list on p6 specifies that all faeries, including (hob-)goblins, kobolds and orcs, speak one language, called ‘Faerie’, but (hob-)goblins and orcs share a second language called ‘Goblin’, so I suppose you get fluency in both.)
  • ’Tongue of Flame’, a second level fire warlock spell, gives the ability to understand – but not speak – all languages.
  • The ‘Knowledge’ ward and the circle of the same name give the same ability (plus literacy), as mentioned above under the read/write own language skill.
  • The psionic powers ‘Empathy’ (second level, 4 ISP), ‘Limited Telepathy' (second level, 6 ISP) and ‘Extended Telepathy’ (third level, 8 ISP) all sort of circumvent the need to talk. It’s not clear from the write-ups whether language barriers apply to telepathy (if they do, ‘Empathy’ is the only power that’s really relevant here) but, assuming they don’t, ‘Extended Telepathy’ is the only one that allows any sort of proper conversation.
  • Apart from that, since there is no speak native language skill, I assume that all characters are fluent in their own language.

Pro-active use of this skill would mostly, I would think, be confined to using a language to communicate with other characters who have it while excluding those who don’t. I suppose using someone’s native or preferred language might help to establish or promote friendly relations with them. But probably not much in a setting where most characters are multilingual. (That claim in the skill write-up isn’t really reflected in the rules: the mean number – across twenty-three classes – of languages spoken by a starting character, disregarding secondary skill choices, is nearly two but the majority of classes start with no additional languages unless the player selects this skill as a secondary skill choice.)

That 1% difference between priest of gods of light and priest of gods of darkness is listed repeatedly: both (sub-)class write-ups list the skill as a class skill and again as a secondary skill. So, if it is a typo, it’s one that’s been copied consistently. If it isn’t, we can incorporate the bonuses for this skill into our overall rankings of most-to-least-evil classes. The final skill-based rankings are
  1. priest of gods of darkness
  2. mind mage
  3. witch
  4. shaman
  5. thief
    • diabolist
    • summoner
  6. healer
  7. warlock
  8. assassin
  9. mercenary
  10. soldier
  11. scholar
  12. wizard
  13. druid
    • ranger
    • noble
  14. knight
  15. squire
  16. longbowman
  17. priest of gods of light
  18. palladin
  19. peasant
    Merchant would slot in between palladin and peasant if it weren’t for their evil lack of medical skill; priest of gods of darkness’ unique lack of horsemanship would, if anything, move them further towards the evil end, so there’s no ambiguity there.
 
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Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
So being evil makes you slightly better at learning languages?
Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. Being aligned with gods of darkness makes you slightly better than those aligned with gods of light at
  • locating secret compartments and doors
  • sneaking around and hiding
  • poisoning people and recognising poisons (and their effects)
  • knowing about demons and devils
  • learning languages.
Also, only priests of gods of darkness can learn to pick locks and pick pockets, while only priests of gods of light can learn to ride horses and perform medical procedures.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Swim has the following class bonuses: druid gets +20%, ranger, assassin, noble and warlock +15%, soldier, longbowman, scholar and healer +10%, peasant +8%, mercenary and shaman +5%. It gives one percentage, which the book describes as the character’s ‘degree of expertise’ in the skill of – I’m not kidding – being able to swim.
Swim: is the skill of being able to stay afloat and move about (swim) in water.
Fair enough, I suppose. Nothing is said about swimming speed, the effects of endurance, frequency of rolls, or any such parameters. The percentage starts at 25%, rises above 50% by fourth level and to 90% by eighth level: a ranger, assassin, noble, warlock or druid who takes this skill at first level will be a flawless swimmer by seventh.

  • ‘Swim as a Fish’, a second level spell from the main list, enables the caster, or one or two other characters the caster touches while casting it, to breathe underwater and swim ‘at a speed of 20’: assuming that means an effective Spd score of 20, that’s 400 yards a minute or nearly 14mph. The duration is forty minutes per caster level.
  • ’Swim like the Dolphin’, a fourth level water warlock spell, may also be cast on the caster themselves or one or two others and endows the target(s) with the swim skill at 98% – better than a sixth level druid – but not the ability to breathe underwater. It does provide a swimming speed of 35mph and a +4 bonus to dodge underwater. The duration is twenty minutes per caster level.
  • Other water warlock spells, such as ‘Float on Water’, ‘Breathe Underwater’, ‘Ride the Waves’ and ‘Walk the Waves’ might also substitute wholly or partly for the swim skill.
  • Various entities a summoner might command would be able to carry a character on or through water.
  • And, of course, the flight and teleportation spells and so on might obviate the need to swim from one place to another.

As for pro-active use, I’m not sure. If the GM describes a location as being cut off by water or surrounded by an impassible moat then a player decides their character will swim across, is that pro-active, using the skill creatively to provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available? Or is it the GM engineering problems that fit the character’s ability to solve?

Tailor has the following class bonuses: merchant gets +15%, longbowman and squire +10% and scholar +5%. It gives one percentage, which is the chance of success ‘in the proper construction, quality and repair of clothing’ made from ‘fabric (cloth, fur, soft leather, etc.)’. The percentage starts at 20%, rises above 50% by fifth level and to 90% by tenth.

‘Resist Cold’, a third level air and/or water warlock spell also available on the main list (there’s a second level fire warlock spell with the same name but a different write-up) would be a sort of substitute for clothes, I suppose, as would the first level psionic power of the same name.

As for pro-active use, there are several possibilities that occur to me. This skill obviously represents a trade and so, as I noted above under the carpentry and cook skills, could be used to make a living and/or infiltrate a community. It could also be used to produce clothing for individuals, having something of the potential of the paint skill for presenting people in a particular way and something of the potential of the cook skill for producing thoughtful gifts. (The point I made under paint about having to spend time alone with the subject obviously applies to tailor as well.) On top of all that, the tailor skill could be used to make trick garments: reversible outfits for quick changes, concealed pockets for (small) weapons, money belts, even just fake outfits such as vestments or robes of office for impersonating people with a particular role.

Ventriloquism has the following class bonuses: thief, mind mage and shaman get +10%, summoner +8%, assassin +6% and diabolist +5%. It gives one percentage, which is the chance to ‘create the illusion of not speaking while making the voice/sound appear to be coming from someone or something... else’ within five feet. The percentage starts at 8%, rises above 50% by seventh level and to 90% by twelfth.

There is a first level spell on the main list called ‘Ventriloquism’, which gives the caster or another person they touch while casting the ability to throw their voice flawlessly up to fifteen feet for eight minutes per caster level.

This is a skill that’s made for pro-active use: I can’t think of a lot of situations where ventriloquism is the obvious solution to a problem that aren’t horribly contrived but it could easily be used to pretend that other people are present (behind a door or just out of sight in a cluttered space) in situations where they aren’t, that mundane objects are magical or that gods or godlike beings are speaking. (This last, of course, is related to the historical origins of ventriloquism, which may be why shaman gets a class bonus.)
 

Mr. R

Registered User
Validated User
Swim has the following class bonuses: druid gets +20%, ranger, assassin, noble and warlock +15%, soldier, longbowman, scholar and healer +10%, peasant +8%, mercenary and shaman +5%. It gives one percentage, which the book describes as the character’s ‘degree of expertise’ in the skill of – I’m not kidding – being able to swim.
Fair enough, I suppose. Nothing is said about swimming speed, the effects of endurance, frequency of rolls, or any such parameters. The percentage starts at 25%, rises above 50% by fourth level and to 90% by eighth level: a ranger, assassin, noble, warlock or druid who takes this skill at first level will be a flawless swimmer by seventh.

  • ‘Swim as a Fish’, a second level spell from the main list, enables the caster, or one or two other characters the caster touches while casting it, to breathe underwater and swim ‘at a speed of 20’: assuming that means an effective Spd score of 20, that’s 400 yards a minute or nearly 14mph. The duration is forty minutes per caster level.
  • ’Swim like the Dolphin’, a fourth level water warlock spell, may also be cast on the caster themselves or one or two others and endows the target(s) with the swim skill at 98% – better than a sixth level druid – but not the ability to breathe underwater. It does provide a swimming speed of 35mph and a +4 bonus to dodge underwater. The duration is twenty minutes per caster level.
  • Other water warlock spells, such as ‘Float on Water’, ‘Breathe Underwater’, ‘Ride the Waves’ and ‘Walk the Waves’ might also substitute wholly or partly for the swim skill.
  • Various entities a summoner might command would be able to carry a character on or through water.
  • And, of course, the flight and teleportation spells and so on might obviate the need to swim from one place to another.

As for pro-active use, I’m not sure. If the GM describes a location as being cut off by water or surrounded by an impassible moat then a player decides their character will swim across, is that pro-active, using the skill creatively to provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available? Or is it the GM engineering problems that fit the character’s ability to solve?
I am reminded of a game where part of the adventure took place on a boat sailing up a large river, and of course we were attacked and the boat sunk and half the party died due to not having swim. And the DM being deer in headlights mode as he had NOT planned on half of us drowning. Fastest ret-con I have ever seen.
From then on, he made sure to check our skills periodically to make sure a disaster like this didn't happen again. (He was assuming we would all swim to shore and then travel overland to the next point in his adventure because in real life we all could swim. I am not kidding here.)
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Before I leave off thinking about skills and start looking at class write-ups, I’d like to have a look at how the classes compare with respect to skills. (I’ve gone through the class bonuses for each skill above.) Each class has three types of skills, as mentioned above (and, as mentioned above, I’m disregarding here some of the abilities listed as skills for some classes, such as the ‘study circles’ elective listed for the magic classes except witch).

Class skills. Each class starts with between one and five class skills:
  1. witch, diabolist, summoner, priest and shaman (each of these classes additionally has class features listed as class skills, sometimes exclusive ones)
  2. longbowman, thief, assassin, squire, noble and warlock
  3. mercenary, soldier, ranger, peasant, merchant and wizard
  4. knight, scholar, mind mage, druid and healer
  5. palladin.
(Because I'm posting a lot of numbered lists, I ought to clarify: the one above is to illustrate that palladin gets five class skills; knight, scholar, mind mage, druid and healer get four; and so on.)

Elective skills. Each class has a list of which elective skills are available (as discussed above) and starts with between four (scholar and diabolist) and eight (longbowman and ranger) chosen by the player from that list. Each class then gives more electives (from the same list) at third level, eighth level and twelfth level, with a couple of exceptions: assassin starts with four weapon proficiencies from their permitted electives and four other elective skills chosen freely, and summoner gets additional elective skills at second level rather than third. I’m inclined to treat the latter as a typo, since, if summoner got a second dose of elective skills at third level, their elective skill progression would be identical to peasant, squire and merchant, instead of being the only class that gives additional skills at second level and not third. Assuming it is a typo, comparing how many elective skills the different classes give, taking into account whether they give them at first, third, eighth or twelfth level, produces the following ranking (from most and/or earliest to fewest and/or latest). In each case, classes with the same ranking have exactly the same progression. I’ve included in parentheses the total percentage points of skill bonuses each class gives across the sixteen skills in the class-and-elective category that admit of class bonuses: the mean is 58.
  1. longbowman (28), ranger (108) and assassin (98) – if assassin’s four starting weapon proficiencies are counted
  2. soldier (20), knight (36), palladin (60), thief (73), mind mage (93) and druid (104)
  3. mercenary (31), wizard (114), warlock (31), priest (53 for priest of gods of light, 56 for priest of gods of darkness), shaman (42) and healer (44)
  4. witch (14)
  5. noble (54)
  6. peasant (27), squire (25), merchant (30) and summoner (52)
  7. scholar (113)
  8. assassin (98) and diabolist (76) – if assassin’s four starting weapon proficiencies aren’t counted.

Secondary skills. Each class starts with between six (peasant, squire, witch, diabolist, summoner and priest) and ten (palladin, ranger, scholar and mind mage, then gives more at fourth level and tenth level, except that mercenary and soldier give additonal secondary skills at twelfth level instead of tenth. I’m going to assume this s another (pair of) typo(s), since amending the twelth level dose of secondary skills to a tenth level dose would bring mercenary in line with knight, druid, shaman and healer and soldier in line with longbowman, thief and assassin. Comparing how many secondary skills the classes give, taking into account when they give them, produces the following ranking (from most and/or earliest to fewest and/or latest). Again, classes with the same ranking actually share the same progression. I’ve included in parentheses the total percentage points of bonuses each class gives across the twenty-five secondary skills: the mean is 129.
  1. ranger (136), scholar (271) and mind mage (174)
  2. palladin (132)
  3. mercenary (36), knight (112), druid (188), shaman (112) and healer (129)
  4. warlock (117)
  5. soldier (36), longbowman (53), thief (52) and assassin (88)
  6. merchant (160), noble (179) and wizard (160)
  7. witch (60), diabolist (216), summoner (208) and priest (158 for priest of gods of light, 171 for priest of gods of darkness)
  8. peasant (85) and squire (52).

Combining the numbers for both lists of skills produces the following ranking (with the total number of percentage points of class bonuses each class gives across all the skills in parentheses: the mean is 186).
  1. ranger (244)
  2. mind mage (267)
  3. palladin (192)
  4. longbowman (81), knight (148), assassin (186) and druid (292)
  5. scholar (384)
  6. mercenary (67), soldier (56), thief (125), shaman (154) and healer (173)
  7. warlock (148)
  8. wizard (274)
  9. priest (211 for priest of gods of light, 227 for priest of gods of darkness)
  10. noble (233)
  11. merchant (190) and witch (74) – these two classes don’t share the same overall progression
  12. summoner (260)
  13. diabolist (292)
  14. peasant (112) and squire (77).
 
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Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
The next section, starting on p30 with a rather nicely illustrated heading, is the arms class write-ups. These cover pp30-38. I’ve already looked at the different classes’ attribute requirements, skills and experience tables in some detail so I won’t go into that stuff in depth again.

Mercenary is described as a ‘rough and tumble’ class and ‘jacks of all trades (when dealing with the fundamentals of combat and adventuring)’, with one of the class’s ‘great advantages’ being their independence from any superiors. This reads to me like a comparison with the soldier class rather than other classes in general. The introductory paragraph of the class write-up also characterises mercenaries as unsubtle, saying, ‘If a door is locked, kick it in, if a man won't reveal a secret, slap him around a little, reading and writing are unimportant skills on the field of combat.’ This despite the read/write (native language) skill and the pick locks skill being electives for mercenaries: perhaps the reference to torture is the real thrust of that quite vivid sentence. In that case it suggests that mercenaries would not be expected to be of good alignments, since neither good alignment allows torture (see under alignments above).

Mercenaries, according to the information about soldiers’ pay on p31, are paid by the month. 30-60 gold a month for a ‘[t]ypical soldier’, 40-80 gold for a border posting, 60-100 gold for a combat assignment and 80-120 gold for a ‘special assignment’.

On the one hand, it seems like the ‘[t]ypical’ soldier’s pay should be normative. On the other hand, I’m sure that the typical player character soldier is much more likely to be given special assignments, combat and/or border postings. The book says, ‘Being stationed at a border town/outpost offers the most freedom’. If so, 80 gold might be a reasonable ballpark figure for a player character mercenary’s monthly pay. (All these rates of pay assume the mercenary has enlisted for a period six months to a year and gets free room and board as well.) Mercenary officers are paid 100-200 gold a month: I suppose they’re the ones giving the duty assignments.

Looking back at the race write-ups, the probabilities of the thirteen playable races meeting the attribute requirements for the mercenary class are
  1. troll 100%
    • dwarf 99%
    • orc 99%
    • ogre 99%
    • troglodyte 99%
    • wolfen 99%
    • human 91%
    • elf 91%
    • goblin 91%
    • hob-goblin 91%
    • kobold 91%
    • changeling 91%
  2. gnome 58%
As I mentioned above, mercenary is a class for which it's very easy to meet the attribute requirements (unless you're playing a gnome), with all but one of the playable races having over a 90% chance and gnome still having a better than even chance. I suppose it's the default arms class in terms of attribute requirements.
 
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