My Favorite Skill

Every player has a favorite skill or attack or quirk for his character. I know some players who invariably play rogues. Others have characters that always charge headlong into battle. My favorite skill is often overlooked by people in 4th Edition D&D and I can’t really figure out why.

I love streetwise. It’s versatile, flavorful and not used by many people. When someone is creative, streetwise is a great skill. It’s not just for sniffing out rumors and spreading tales, it’s about knowing people and being known by people. Streetwise can let you drop names, move an angry mob or get you out of a lot of trouble by flashing a gang sign. If George Costanza had a better streetwise, he may have been able to get of of trouble with the Van Buren Boys. If given the opportunity, my D&D characters almost always have streetwise, though I rarely get an opportunity to use it.

This past Friday my normal group was down a few players so we took a break from the main campaign. One of the players suggested we try out the introductory adventure for the upcoming 4E Dark Sun campaign setting. He took the role of the DM and invited his dad over for a night of gaming. It was one of the more interesting games I’ve been in for a while. The adventure comes prepared with six characters who are initially divided into two groups of three. There were only three players, so we each grabbed one character from each team and jumped into the game. Much to my surprise, not only did one of my characters have streetwise trained, but she had an incredible charisma score to back it up. It was on.

The initial skill challenge had the two parties vying for favor with the man who runs the gladiatorial games. He had recently acquired a talisman of power; one group saw it as a reason to get out of a city that was slowly and assuredly falling into chaos while the other group wanted to use it to regain knowledge of the green time, before Athas was transformed into a wasteland. When it came time my for warlock to contribute to the challenge, I declared my intent to use streetwise to convince the Master of the Games that the talisman was essentially worthless. She was basically name-dropping well known merchants and using her social connections to make it seem like she knew the true value of the trinket. The DM thought this was a great idea and let me do so.

Later we were chasing someone through a crowded stadium. The big, burly fighter used intimidate to clear a path. My warlock took a different tack. She used her knowledge of the people in the city, their habits, fears and quirks, to her advantage. When we needed a path out of the stadium cleared, she yelled out, “The Templars are coming!” Fearing for their lives, the general populace fled or hid.

Two very different uses of the same skill. Both were effective, both were a lot of fun to describe. This is why streetwise is my favorite skill.

Ed. Note: my other character had a fun moment where he attempted to use endurance to just bull his way through the crowd. I say attempted because it doesn’t matter how cool your idea is, if you roll a 1 on the d20 you can’t expect success.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
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One Response to My Favorite Skill

  1. DM Grint says:

    I think an important rule for fun skill checks and skill use in general is to reward creativity. As a DM, I always try to find a way to say yes if a player comes up with a creative use for a skill. Maybe it’s far fetched and so I’ll make the DC high, but I’ll still let them do it. Even if the player misses the roll, they usually enjoy doing it because it was a unique tactic they created. Streetwise is perfect for that kind of stuff.

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