PCs are adventurers. I get it. They’re not slaving away at some lousy 9-to-5 job hoping the boss won’t drop a ton of work on their desk before the weekend or pining for that promotion that will never come.
It’s not in their makeup. They’re adventurers! They’re goblin-killers and tomb raiders and dragon-slayers, for goodness sakes. They don’t punch-in at a timeclock and they aren’t worried about the 401K.
If they want something, they go for it. When they see injustice, they take action. And if there is plunder involved, don’t stand in their way. You just might get run over.
So, why as the DM, do I suggest (note, I don’t say insist) that the PCs invest ranks in either Craft, Profession, Knowledge or Perform? Short of crafting magic items or bardic music, they have little application in your basic dungeon crawl. If the game is about adventuring, why am I worried about how the PCs make a living?
It’s a shortcut backstory
If you’re blessed by players who love to craft elaborate backstories explaining how their PC came to the adventuring life, great. To be honest, I’ve found few gamers who fit that mold. A lot would rather not even bother coming up with a name for their character for the first few levels if I didn’t insist on that much, at least.
But asking them to devote at least a couple of ranks in one of the trade skills at least gives them a shorthand version of their apprentice-aged years. The trade skills aren’t a perfect fit. But it’s a beginning.
And maybe next time, you might inspire the players to write (or say) a sentence or two about the character’s origin.
Heroes are special people in a (largely) mundane world
This second bit presumes something on my part, I know. Your game world may well differ. But I see the baseline D&D fantasy milleu filled with ordinary people doing ordinary things, just as in our medieval times. But the heroes (and villains) who occupy this world have special abilities, command powerful magic, and perform feats that outshine most folk.
But they didn’t start out that way, obviously. Training, luck or divine intervention fashioned them to be heroes. But to give them a sense of place, a sense of the world they belong to, it’s fitting they at least have something in their skill set that allows them to relate to the world at large. Doesn’t it make sense to have a heroic ranger demonstrate the capability to craft his own longbow? Shouldn’t a wizard brew her own alchemical mixtures? Certainly the fighter once made a living hiring out as a merchant or city guard? Those are the things I mean.
Now I’ve toyed with the idea of instituting a house rule, allocating 2 bonus skill points to every character so they can apply them in the trade skills. Two ranks in a given skill won’t unbalance anything, the players don’t feel like they’re being “forced” to buy ranks in a largely background item, and it accomplishes my goal of having them fit into the world around them.
What do you think of my solution? Or should I try to tie Profession more closely to wealth, as the d20 Modern rules do? Have you tried something else that works in your campaign? I’d love to hear what works for you.