June 28, 2009

On Anti-Abilities

This thread about D&D 3's rogues stirred an old memory about anti-abilities. Anti-abilities are abilities that does not so much give one class an ability, but takes it away from everyone else. The one being discussed in the linked thread is Trapfinding, which protects the Rogues trap-disabling ability in spite of the skill system by making every other class unable to find or disarm traps.

From the D20 SRD:
Rogues (and only rogues) can use the Search skill to locate traps when the task has a Difficulty Class higher than 20.

Finding a nonmagical trap has a DC of at least 20, or higher if it is well hidden. Finding a magic trap has a DC of 25 + the level of the spell used to create it.

Rogues (and only rogues) can use the Disable Device skill to disarm magic traps. A magic trap generally has a DC of 25 + the level of the spell used to create it.

A rogue who beats a trap’s DC by 10 or more with a Disable Device check can study a trap, figure out how it works, and bypass it (with her party) without disarming it.

In other words, a fighter who invested in Disable Device might be able to disarm a crude (DC 20) non-magical trap - but he can't find it in the first place. Since everyone gets skills, the 3:rd Ed rogue needs this rule to avoid being made obsolete.

D&D 4 solves this by making the rogue just as good at fighting as the fighter (and giving the fighter just as many skills). Earlier editions (or is it house rules) give everyone a decent chance at disarming traps, while the rogue gets an excellent chance.

The other example I saw was a discussion about a feat for D&D 3 that allowed a character to crashland into an enemy and deal falling damage. Something that people felt should be doable without that feat. Ergo: another example of an anti-ability. There are probably many more feats that do this.

Feats seem to be the problem here - or rather feats that enable too mundane things. Again, the solution seems to be to give people a basic success chance and let the feat/power/schtick improve on it. Everyone can land on other people, WWE style, but only people with the feat get to ignore the falling damage themselves.

Oddly, the powers in D&D 4 don't bother me. Probably because there are rules for improvised actions, and the actual "learned powers" can then be taken as more powerful than anything a hero at the level of a power could improvise.
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