[Sword & Sanity Dissected] Skills

Heroes in sword & sorcery (S&S) adventures are highly skilled individuals, and this should be reflected in the player characters when playing in such a game. Below I will share how I handle Secondary Professions and Proficiencies in my current sword & sanity game.

The game mechanics discussed can be used for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but are specifically written for Castles & Crusades. As with most game materials I will present, this article is considered Open Game License (OGL).

Secondary Professions

When creating a character the player initially chooses a Primary Profession or Career Path, which is reflected in the character class they choose to pursue. In addition to their Primary Profession the player should also consider what their character’s Secondary Profession is going to be as well. This will help flesh out the character’s background, and the overall feel the player is trying to achieve.

It is not required, but if the player needs a reference then here is a list of possible professions:

  • Alchemist (make alchemical compounds, powders, potions)
  • Armorer (make, repair & evaluate armor and weapons)
  • Bowyer/Fletcher (make, repair, & evaluate bows and arrows)
  • Brewer (fire-building, herbalism, cooking)
  • Carpenter / Woodworker (carpentry, carving)
  • Cook (cooking, herbalism)
  • Farmer / Gardener (basic agriculture)
  • Fisher (swimming, nets, and small boat handling)
  • Forester (basic wood lore, lumbering)
  • Gambler (knowledge of gambling games)
  • Groom / Husbandman (animal handling)
  • Hunter (basic wood lore, butchering, basic tracking)
  • Jeweler / Lapidary (appraisal of gems and jewelry)
  • Leather worker / Tanner (skinning, tanning)
  • Limner/Painter (map making, appraisal of art objects)
  • Mason (stone-cutting)
  • Miner (stone-cutting, assaying)
  • Navigator (astronomy, sailing, swimming, navigation)
  • Sailor (sailing, swimming)
  • Scribe (reading, writing, basic math)
  • Shipwright (sailing, carpentry)
  • Tailor/Weaver (weaving, sewing, embroidery)
  • Teamster/Freighter (animal handling, wagon-repair)
  • Trader/Barterer (appraisal of common goods)
  • Trapper/Furrier (basic wood lore, skinning)
  • Weaponsmith (make, repair, & evaluate weapons)

Secondary Proficiencies

I am not a big fan of hard-and-fast skill lists. I prefer the approach that was taken in the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, where the players were allowed to purchase a number of Nonweapon Proficiencies that were for the most part broadly defined. I prefer to call them Secondary Proficiencies.

For my game, every character begins with 3 Secondary Proficiency slots, with an additional number of slots equal to the character’s Intelligence bonus. So a character with an Intelligence of 18 begins the game with 6 Secondary Proficiency slots (3 to begin with, and 3 more for INT). Also, to reflect the highly skilled nature of a S&S hero the characters gain an additional Secondary Proficiency slot every odd numbered level, so at 3rd level they gain an additional slot, and again at 5th level, and so on.

Secondary Proficiency Groups

Below is a list of Secondary Proficiencies broken up by character class group. The proficiencies listed under General are open for everyone to buy no matter the class. The remaining class groups have the allowed classes listed in parentheses next to the group name. I have not taken the time to define each proficiency, as time and space does not allow for it. For additional information on proficiencies I suggest referring to the AD&D 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook.

Proficiencies cost one slot to purchase, unless marked with an asterisk, which then doubles the cost. Additionally, it is possible to purchase a proficiency that is outside the scope of your character’s chosen class grouping simply by doubling the slot cost of the desired proficiency. For example, if a Druid wants to be proficient in Blind Fighting it will cost 4 Secondary Proficiency slots to purchase.

Finally, proficiencies can be purchased multiple times at the same cost for each slot. The main benefit of doing this is that each slot gained in a specific proficiency will add an additional +2 to any proficiency check that is required during gameplay. Listed next to each proficiency is the defining attribute for that proficiency, which is used when making proficiency checks.

General (All Classes)

  • Agriculture (INT)
  • Ambidexterity (DEX) * [+2 bonus / slot to offset any dual-wielding penalties until 0 is reached for each hand]
  • Animal Handling (WIS)
  • Animal Training (WIS)
  • Artistic Ability (WIS)
  • Blacksmithing (STR)
  • Brewing (INT)
  • Carpentry (STR)
  • Cobbling (DEX)
  • Cooking (INT)
  • Cryptography (INT) *
  • Dancing (DEX)
  • Direction Sense (WIS)
  • Etiquette (CHA)
  • Fire-building WIS)
  • Fishing (WIS)
  • Forbidden Lore (WIS) *
  • Heraldry (INT)
  • Hypnosis (CHA) *
  • Languages, Modern (INT)
  • Leatherworking (INT)
  • Mining (WIS)
  • Navigation (INT)
  • Pottery (DEX)
  • Riding, Airborne (WIS) *
  • Riding, Land-based (WIS)
  • Rope Use (DEX)
  • Seamanship (DEX)
  • Seamstress/Tailor (DEX)
  • Sensing the Unknown (CHA) [1st slot free / each additional slot costs 1]
  • Singing (CHA)
  • Sorcery (INT) *
  • Stonemasonry (STR)
  • Swimming (STR)
  • Weather Knowledge (WIS)
  • Weaving (INT)

Priest (Cleric, Druid, Monk & Paladin)

  • Ancient History (INT)
  • Astrology (WIS) *
  • Engineering (INT) *
  • Divination (WIS) *
  • Healing (WIS) *
  • Herbalism (INT) *
  • Languages, Ancient (INT)
  • Local History (CHA)
  • Musical Instrument (DEX)
  • Numerology (WIS) *
  • Reading/Writing (INT)
  • Religion (WIS)
  • Spellcraft (INT)

Rogue (Assassin, Bard, Monk & Rogue)

  • Ancient History (INT)
  • Appraising (INT)
  • Blind-fighting (WIS) *
  • Disguise (CHA)
  • Forgery (DEX)
  • Gaming (CHA)
  • Gem Cutting (DEX) *
  • Juggling (DEX)
  • Jumping (STR)
  • Local History (CHA)
  • Musical Instrument (DEX)
  • Reading Lips (INT) *
  • Set Snares (DEX)
  • Tightrope Walking (DEX)
  • Tumbling (DEX)
  • Ventriloquism (INT)

Warrior (Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Fighter, Knight, Ranger & Paladin)

  • Animal Lore (INT)
  • Armorer (INT) *
  • Blind-fighting (WIS) *
  • Bowyer/Fletcher (DEX)
  • Charioteering (DEX)
  • Endurance (CON) *
  • Gaming (CHA)
  • Hunting (WIS)
  • Mountaineering (DEX)
  • Navigation (INT)
  • Running (CON)
  • Set Snares (INT)
  • Survival (INT) *
  • Tracking (WIS) *
  • Weaponsmithing (INT) *

Wizard (Wizard & Illusionist)

  • Alchemy (INT) *
  • Ancient History (INT)
  • Astrology (WIS) *
  • Engineering (INT) *
  • Divination (WIS) *
  • Gem Cutting (DEX) *
  • Herbalism (INT) *
  • Languages, Ancient (INT)
  • Numerology (WIS) *
  • Reading/Writing (INT)
  • Religion (WIS)
  • Spellcraft (INT)

[From the Trove] Sorrow-Shank

Sorrow-Shank is a small double-edged sword similar to a Roman gladius, with no special physical qualities when first examined. Upon further inspection it becomes obvious that the surface of the entire blade is etched with extremely small runes, which are masked by the dull gray surface of the blade itself. It is not clear from what metal the blade was forged. The hilt of the sword has a ridged grip, a simple cross-guard and knobbed pommel. The blade itself is leaf shaped, flaring out towards the middle and then tappers back to a point. Its sheath is made of plain black leather. Physically, Sorrow-Shank was not forged to win awards for its looks.

Sorrow-Shank is a Pact-Weapon. That is, it was forged by a blacksmith who through sorcerous means made an infernal pact, thereby enchanting the blade forever with a dark arcane dweomer.

Item: Short sword (28” in length)

Damage: 1d6 + 3 (see below)

Forged By: Belfus of the Daemon-Forge

Arcane Qualities:

  • +3 to hit & damage
  • Vampiric – upon a roll of 18, 19 or 20 Sorrow-Shank will leach the life-force from its victim and bestow it upon its wielder. Either part or all of the damage dealt is transferred immediately to the wielder’s hit points. (a roll of 18 or 19 = ½, while a natural 20 = All)
  • Daemonic Arm – the wielder of Sorrow-Shank will immediately notice a change in the appearance of the arm they wield the sword with. At first small scales begin to develop upon the skin. Within an hour the scales cover the entire forearm, all the way from hand to elbow. The appearance of the arm is altogether reptilian, with the scales having a dark green color and the fingernails morphing into claws. Each time a natural 20 is rolled the arm becomes even more reptilian in appearance. After the 5th natural 20 is rolled the character’s hand begins to develop a 6th finger.
  • Willful – though Sorrow-Shank is not an intelligent blade per se, it defiantly possesses willful qualities. If the character tries to rid himself of the blade he must amputate the Daemonic Arm, and also make a save vs. Charisma at a -6 penalty. If the save is failed the arm is still amputated, but the character will feel compelled to immediately begin wielding the blade in the opposite hand.
  • No Quarter – another willful side effect Sorrow-Shank has on its wielder is the need to take the life of every opponent. Once the wielder is locked in battle it becomes hard to end the battle without killing the foe. If the wielder wants to spare the life of the opponent a successful Charisma save is required. If the save is failed then the wielder is compelled to finish the job he started…

Note: The game mechanics discussed can be used for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but are specifically written for Castles & Crusades. As with most game materials I will present, this article is considered Open Game License (OGL).

[Sorcerer’s Library] The Codex – Forging of a Pact-Weapon

Forging of a Pact-Weapon

Author: Belfus of the Daemon-Forge

Type: enchantment

Effect: this ritual allows a blacksmith to call upon Outside forces (angelic, daemonic, Elder Gods, Outer Gods, etc.) and enter into a pact to forge a powerful magic weapon.

It is said that Belfus was the blacksmith who developed the ritual through “infernal inspiration”, and recorded the complete process within The Codex, which was called The Book of Recorded Ecstasies & Damnations during the age in which he lived. He forged a sword known as Sorrow-Shank.

In game terms it is up to the game master to determine the nature of the magic forged into the weapon. This can be done randomly, or by deliberate design. Remember, this ritual has a heavy toll on its caster (see below), so balance this with the power level of the game when designing the weapon. The player may decide what type of weapon that is being forged.

Ritual Elements:

  • Verbal: chanting of specific incantations and prayers (found in The Codex) during the entire forging of the weapon
  • Somatic: the act of forging the weapon itself
  • Material: the blacksmith must be ritually cleansed by fasting for an entire month, and anointing his entire body with a rare oil (GMs choice)
  • Material: the blacksmith forges the weapon in the nude
  • Material: the forge must be pristine (never used), and made of a specified silver alloy
  • Special: the forging of the weapon itself must be done alone, but the blacksmith can be assisted with other daily matters, and no rest is allowed until the forging is complete
  • Location: prepared ritual chamber
  • Time: the forging of the weapon begins at dawn

Casting Time: however long it takes to forge the weapon (1d4 + 1 days)

Duration: until the weapon is destroyed

Range: touch

Sorcery Skill Level: 4

Blacksmith Skill Level: 4

Sanity Cost: 1d12+4

Saving Throw: vs. Death (the life-force of the blacksmith sparks the actual enchantment within the weapon – a failed saving throw = death, while a successful save = ½ the blacksmith’s hit points are permanently lost to the ritual)

Note: The game mechanics discussed can be used for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but are specifically written for Castles & Crusades. As with most game materials I will present, this article is considered Open Game License (OGL).