Monday, December 14, 2020

GLOGifying Specialists

So before this article begins in earnest, I want to explain something. Firstly, I don't really use the GLOG, I just think it's interesting. But I've written about this before. Secondly, I'm not criticizing the GLOG for its cool flavor- far from it. Like many others, I was entranced by Arnold's series of Monastic Wizard blogposts; the many schools of magic. I can't speak for everyone, but I think a LOT of people enjoy the GLOG for its unique magic system.

But look at the other classes of the GLOG. They just don't have that same level of love and attention that the GLOG wizards do. Now that's not to say they're bad necessarily- but you have these Wizards with multiple spells, unique abilities per school, a unique taboo and Doom that is ripe with flavor, and other classes don't quite reach that level. Instead, each nonmagical class seems to be a collection of abilities and some skills, but nothing quite as inspiried as the GLOG's MU.

So let's GLOGify the specialist a bit.

The GLOG Specialist

The specialist is a term used for skillful characters whose abilities are neither directly tied to spellcasting, but also not to combat. That doesn't mean they can't fight, many of them are able combatants, and can take templates in fighting classes if they wished to bolster their strength; but the specialist is a unique role in a party.

Most specialists have skills which are related to dungeoneering and adventuring. Things like architecture, machinery, performance, cat burglary, poaching, and so on. These are what this Blogpost is talking about. Specialists also have abilities which are based on their class- things like the Ranger's tracking ability or the Thief's luck. Don't change these. These are the same as they were before as written up in the class description.

Every specialist now has a Creed and Knacks. At the bottom of your character sheet, write Doubt with a 0% next to it.

Honor among Thieves

Every specialist has a Creed. Your Creed is a reason for you to keep going, it is your guiding principle. Even if your class isn't thief, you probably have a collection of skills and the experience in using them in ways that aren't totally legal. Knowing how to pick locks and mix poison is always questionable, even in legal situations where you may be allowed to use them. There is a bit of moral ambiguity in the art of the specialist. As such, your Creed is what lets you go to sleep at night. It's the justification for all the weird blackmailing and throats slit you keep doing with your party- all thanks to your skills. Your Creed is also (eventually) will act as the power source for your more supernatural or mythic abilities- things not necessarily possible but aren't explained as magic either.

When you take any specialist A Template, you must make a Creed. Your Creed can be anything, but typically it's going to be something that acts as your moral guide, even in an amoral world. The thief steals, but only from the rich to the poor. The torturer puts splints under people's fingernails to get them to talk, but it's only because learning the truth is the most important thing. No player character gets to be a thief who just “wants money”. That's a one line justification that belongs on an NPC stat spread your players kill in a session. Thieves who just steal for money or because they are good at it are NPCs, not player characters.

Thief Knacks

No matter what type of specialist you are, or how common your skillset is, you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Knacks are like special talents or bonus situations related to your skills that only you know. These are things like putting chalk on your fingers so you can really grip the edge of a pressure plate, less then an inch jutting from the floor. Or sharpening the other end of your lockpick into a point, so you can use it to peel the rust off the older locks. Stuff like that.

You can declare a knack whenever you succeed OR fail a skill check, and only as long as you have a knack “slot” available. You can have a maximum number of Knacks equal to your number of Specialist Templates times two. The maximum number of knacks you can have in any one skill is equal to your number of Specialist Templates. This means that while you can put a lot of knacks into your main skill, you have the opportunity to branch out into other skills.

Knacks are special talents that let you essentially bypass a skill check. Say your character has Architecture and wants to roll to find a hidden wall in a long dead dwarven stronghold. They succeed. You declare your character now knows how dwarves like to hide their walls, and since dwarves aren't terrible creativity, pretty much all of them are hidden like that. Your DM allows it. Now, you can automatically find hidden walls and sliding passages in strongholds built by the dwarves, or those with strong dwarven influence.

Knacks can also be used as a last second thing on a failed skill check- this lets you avoid the penalties of the failed check. For example, if your character tries to disarm a flame trap and fails- you declare they find the air valve at the last second and plug it up with their sweat band and stop the fiery dragon sculpture from breathing on them. The DM allows it. However- using a knack like this locks you out of creating any new knacks from the rest of the session. You've had your special moment of drama, now you got to cool off and be in the background for a bit.

Finally; Knacks can also be used to expand a skill in a meaningful or fitting way in a situation where a regular Knack would be too broad of an application (and a new skill would be too narrow in scope). For example, your thief finds a dragon egg and really wants to hatch it. They have the Animal Handling skill, but raising eggs is a bit different. Your DM lets them add “Animal Handling / Dragon Rearing” to their character sheet. It's a bit too specific to be its own skill, but it would be a bit too powerful to just let them succeed every time they want to stop their baby dragon from burning their house down. In this situation, their knack has made the skill more broad in scope, but they still need to succeed on a roll to actually use it, since it's still hard to raise a dragon.

Finally, with your skill comes doubt. Where as Fighters may struggle against foes beyond their muscle and Wizards must deal with their own madness and intellectual battles; the only real struggle for the thief comes from within. Your Doubt eats away at you if you let it.

You gain +10% to +30% doubt if you violate your Creed; the degree of infraction indicating how much doubt you accumulate. If you consider yourself a noble thief who steals only from the corrupt and decadent, but yet you begin bribing officials to look the other way with your crimes, you will start to feel like a hypocrite. Small amounts of doubt eat away at you. You also gain +1-5% doubt whenever you fail a skill roll in a stressful situation or when it really matters. If the lock on the ancient vault door you've been camped under for two whole days is just too tough for you to open, it's no big deal. It's clearly just too complex for you. But if you really need to disarm a trap and it ends up killing your lantern boy, well then that's your failure. You feel the sting of that one inside you, like
you just aren't good enough. Maybe you had it once, but in your age you're losing it. How many old pickpockets do you see? Exactly.

The higher your doubt climbs, the more it interferes. Once per session, the DM may declare that the thief must make a Doubt check whenever attempting to use a skill OR a class ability related to their specialist class. They then roll a percentile roll out of 100. If they roll under their doubt, they hesitate, freeze up, and fail the roll or ability. No additional doubt is accumulated, but the damage was already done.

In many ways, Doubt is similar to the Doom of a Wizard, but instead of being bombastic and magical, it is slow and insidious. It is also possible to remove doubt. If you manage to steal or accomplish a great task related to your skills- like climbing the tallest mountain in the setting for a Climbing specialist or steal the King's Jewels, you gain a surge of optimism that reduces your doubt by -1d6x5%. So a roll of 2 means you drop your Doubt by a whole 10%. However, these situations are meant to be rare, and you can only get the benefit of this doubt reduction roll by doing an even greater feat next time. Breaking a dead language so its ancient lost spellbooks and tomes can be read is a great achievement- but once you've done that, decoding some cypher or learning old elvish just doesn't cut it anymore. Eventually, Doubt will lead to a character's death or retirement- and all those special tricks of the trade die with you.

Optional Rule: If the DM deciding when to kick in doubt is a bit too storygames or too antagonistic for your table, consider instead having doubt trigger on an on/off condition based on your specialist's creed. For example, if you're creed is about getting treasure, then your doubt is constant for the first part of a dungeon run- UNTIL you acquire at least 200 gp worth of treasure in a dungeon. Once that gold is in your hand, you start to get your motivation back until you return to town and have to start over. Another example is "As long as nobody gets hurt", in which case you have no doubt unless somebody in the party dies or is maimed; in which case doubt plagues you until you can return home and unwind.


  1. [X] Doubt

    This seems really cool! I would maybe change Doubt to instead increase critical fail rates, especially since a lot of Specialist/Thief abilities are all about rerolls and instant successes already. Once you get to +2 doubt (crit fail on 1, 2, 3) but you have advantage to all climbing rolls, that dreaded critical failure becomes a lot more menacing while still not being an instant career ender. Also, this means that the Specialist is more likely to succeed really well... or fail spectacularly, with no "boring" failures to stop them

    1. You know what? That's a great idea. No idea why that wasn't the default. I know a lot of people (including myself) don't use critical failure, but adding a critical failure or a "get yourself into more trouble" mechanic just for Specialists feels very glog-appropraite. Perhaps even class specific, to make it more like the DOOM mechanic from the MU. Thanks for the suggestion!