Friday, March 5, 2010

RPG Ability: Disposition of Skulls

As you follow the skeleton through the cemetery, he gambols over the headstones and says conversationally, "I don't see how you living can have conversations without seeing each others' skulls. How can you tell what someone's thinking with all that flesh in the way?" You tell the skeleton that, for the living, facial expressions depend on the flesh of the face. He shakes his head and replies, "No no no, that's all wrong! The flesh can deceive you, but the expression on someone's skull is always true. Here, I'll show you..."

Disposition of Skulls allows characters to see through a person's face and glimpse the expression on that person's skull. When viewed with this ability, skulls are not always grinning, and are in fact better indicators of what a person is truly feeling than the face is.

This ability will always show a single expression to represent the target's overall mood and attitude. In order for a character to use this ability, the character must be able to see through the target's face to its skull. Therefore, it only works on creatures that have skulls, but not on creatures that only have skulls and not faces. Thus, it would not work on a thri-kreen (which has an exoskeleton, not a skull) or a lich whose face is only a skull.

Players have to announce that their character is going to attempt to read the Disposition of an NPC's skull. The DM then reveals the look on the NPC's skull and grants the PC a relevant bonus on the next Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check.


bluefish said...

Hmm. Is this skill always successful? Or would it be an opposed Insight check? I suppose if you always see the true expression, then there's really no way to hide it... :D

Lord Admiral said...

Yes, Disposition of Skulls is always successful, but just because you know someone's true expression doesn't mean you know why he or she has that expression. Does the merchant leer at you because he loves money so much it's making him drool, or is he picturing you in a short skirt and corset? That's why Disposition of Skulls gives bonuses to skill checks rather than automatic successes.

David said...

The Drill Instructor is always successful. Always.

Russell said...

Interesting. But you shouldn't impose needless restrictions on it. Let the player use the ability on something without a skull (skullless? too many "l's") provided they can come up with a clever way that the power is working to compensate.

Maybe it does read the thri-kreen's exoskeleton, since by simply having an exoskeleton it would be hard to gauge a being's feelings. So thri-kreen would have to rely on scent/sonics/psionics/whatever normally and other races would have no clue. The skull power would let you bypass that.

Maybe it reads the gelatinous cube's thin, outer membrane. Like getting an impression off of soup skin. Mmmm soup skin...

Anyway, clever idea. Just foster, man. Foster!