Lessons is still my favorite advancement mechanic and I’m gonna have to put some real effort into putting it to use so that it doesn’t just gather dust in a Google Doc
“The Weaver’s Lesson” is a module you can add to any existing game that doesn’t already have a resolution mechanic, or that has one you want to replace. It gives you everything you need to resolve or complicate any action a character might take, if that’s what you need.
There’s no XP growth, no special abilities, just skills or aptitudes, things you want your character to be able to do in the world and you want to measure how good they are at doing those things. “I want to fish.” Cool, give yourself a Fishing skill of 1 to start with. Easy.
If you like rolling d6’s, you can keep using them. But if you want to use the full d20 set (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20), the different dice are used to represent risk. Bigger risks means a bigger die. Smaller risks means a smaller die.
The player doesn’t roll; the GM rolls to see if they can disrupt the player’s actions. If the GM doesn’t succeed, the scene plays out without issue. If the GM succeeds, they get to add elements of chaos or danger or consequences to the scene—and then the player learns a Lesson.
The Lesson might be “Remember to lock the door behind you” or it might be “Remember to bring bait” or it might be “Remember to watch their left hand”. You record it on your sheet, along with the name of the skill you were using. Then you add 1 to that skill.
And that’s it.
“But Dee,” you might say, “if every skill starts at 1, doesn’t that mean we’re going to spend the first session flailing helplessly?”
Well, yes. But that might not be fun, right? So here’s the secret spice in the sauce: You can add Lessons before the roll, too.
Say you’re going in against a Sicilian, and death is on the line. You’re going to use Wits for this, and death is a very big risk, so let’s call it a d10 roll. Oof, scary stuff, right?
But you’re the Dread Pirate Roberts. You’ve prepared.
You’ve prepared by spending years in the employ of one of the most skilled pirates who ever sailed the seas. While in his employ, you have:
- negotiated your way out of being killed in the morning
- kept your head down and done your work
- developed an immunity to iocane powder
To say nothing of the many Lessons you would have learned just by being on a ship, where not keeping your wits about you can land you in a watery grave.
We don’t know about all that, sitting around the table. But you’ve been quietly adding Lessons to your sheet.
So the GM is smirking at you, challenging you to give something away, and you just smile back, and the Sicilian chooses a cup, and the GM rolls, and it’s a 10. “HA! You failed! I tricked you!”
And you smile. Because your Wits skill is 15. The Sicilian never had a chance.
That’s how Lessons work. You want to be good at something? Chart the course of how you got good at it. You don’t have to tell us the full story, although there’s nothing wrong with a good training montage.
And if you don’t want to do that in the moment, that’s okay too. Just let the dice fall where they may, deal with the consequences, and slowly build your skill during play.
Flexible. Clean. Tidy. And you can use it in any story you’re telling.
Maybe there’s room for Lessons that aren’t tied to a skill, too? Like “Don’t trust the man in the Blue Hat” which isn’t gonna fit to a specific skill but might feed into a pool of Lessons surrounding this man in a Blue Hat so that when you finally confront them, you can use ‘em?
Like maybe you put them into a skill called “Revenge: Man in the Blue Hat” and it’s full of Lessons relating to the things the Man in the Blue Hat has done to you or the people you care about. +1, +1, +1, +1, and it all adds up, until you finally meet them and they laugh (+1).
And you’re standing there with a sword in your hand that you mostly don’t know how to use because you just found it on the floor a second ago, you don’t even have a skill for it, but you’ve got Revenge 9 so let’s fucking do this
And if you win? awesome, great! But your sheet still has this Revenge 9 skill on it, and all these lessons you’ve learned that…ugh, they’re all only applicable to this person who’s gone now, there’s no getting rid of them. You just have to…move on.