My fondness for the ACKS proficiencies is exceeded only by my desperate need to see them organized.
There are a lot of fascinating things built into and implied by the proficiency lists. Some of them are clever and I love them. Some of them look like mistakes that seemed like a good idea at the time. Some of them just make me go, “Huh?” Almost all of those fascinating things are extremely hard to figure out without making some kind of chart tracking who can do what.
So, I made a chart. If anyone’s interested, I can drop the spreadsheet somewhere accessible.
First off, I really like what the system is doing and how it’s going about it. Special ability packages make it easier to design classes and build interesting, original characters.
When I looked at the lists, I was initially confused by General skills versus Class skills, because some of the General skills appear on the class lists. Once I understood how that expands the level-based class skill choices, it made more sense, but I still think the names lend toward some confusion, especially in how they’re defined. Some kind of categorization beyond “general proficiencies” and “everything else” would help a great deal, I think, and some of it’s already lurking there behind the lists.
Basing class proficiencies on attack bonus makes me wonder if the mage’s assumed INT bonus is intended to offset that.
Bard is missing from the Proficiencies Gained table.
General vs Class: “General proficiencies, which represent trade skills and common training that is widely available; and class proficiencies, which represent specialized training only available to particular character classes.” That description makes sense, but there are some proficiencies that seem to go against that thinking. For example…
On the General side, Collegiate Wizardry and Theology seem very class-specific, but they seem to function exactly like categories of Knowledge (and theology is specifically mentioned as a category in the Knowledge description)… do they really need to be separate proficiencies? Adding Knowledge (Wizardry) to the Mage and Knowledge (Theology) to the Priest/Craft-Priest class lists would help trim down the list a bit, and Knowledge is already on the General list, so access doesn’t change. That would also clear up what seems to be a minor oversight where Collegiate Wizardry doesn’t specify it can be selected multiple times.
Similarly, Acting appears on the General list, but isn’t referenced anywhere - it turns into Performance (Acting) for the Thief and Assassin, which makes sense.
Magical Engineering (which could have a more intuitive name as it’s unrelated to the Engineering proficiency) appears on the class lists of the primary item creators - Mage, Cleric, Craft-Priest - which seems appropriate for specialized knowledge of magic items. Having it as a General proficiency where any 18-year-old bricklayer can acquire a 50/50 chance to mystically intuit the properties of common magic items makes me wonder, especially when…
Running is a Class proficiency. A Class proficiency with a cruel streak, available to everyone except the divine spellcasters (presumably in heavy armor, but also denied to the otherwise athletic Bladedancer), Dwarven Fighters (presumably in heavy armor, short legs), and Mages (presumably unathletic). I’m guessing excluding Bladedancers from the list is a leftover from their heavy armor design, which means the only meaningful exclusion is Mages - the one class that really wants to avoid being in melee range.
Racial Proficiencies: They’re there, they’re just not obvious.
Brewing is dwarf-only and awesome, but the basic name makes it look like a regular profession that belongs in the General list - maybe call it out as Dwarven Brewing, or Ancestral Brewing, or Secrets of the Stone Keg, or… something?
Caving looks like a dwarf-only proficiency that got shared with Explorers.
Goblin-Slaying is dwarf-only and awesome, but no dwarf can get the +3 bonus because of the level caps. Alas.
Passing Without Trace looks like an elf-only proficiency that got shared with Explorers (sensibly enough).
Wakefulness is elf-only and awesome.
That’s excellent, colorful stuff - I think calling it out as such would add to the flavor of the game (and be useful to future class designers). These also feel like they’d fit as General proficiencies if they were still restricted by race.
Some sort of classification system might be useful to make the long list easier to digest, even if there’s no mechanical reason behind it.
Thoughts on specific proficiencies…
Apostasy: Apparently craft-priests don’t have apostates. Or there is no knowledge forbidden to them. Interesting.
Ancestral Magic: Lifespan is three times longer than normal for race, but only humans (Mage, Bard) have access to it. coughhalfelfcough Very nice and wizardly, even if it means using one of those precious Class proficiencies. If Racial proficiencies were General and restricted by race rather than on class lists, this would be a good candidate for a Human Racial.
Black Lore of Zahar: Winner of the Best Proficiency Name contest and full of awesome. (I’m biased.) I haven’t dug through Spells yet, but from what I’ve glanced at, a Nature version of this might make sense.
Climbing: Only for Explorers, kind of surprised it’s not an option for Assassins as well.
Combat Trickery: The five proficiencies pretending to be one. Only two classes don’t get this: the Craft-Priest (who gets Fighting Style and Weapon Focus - an oversight?) and the Mage (who doesn’t care). All of the class lists with Combat Trickery specify which maneuvers they’re limited to - some get two, some get three, some get five. I think this might be easier to follow if each choice was a separate proficiency called out as a special maneuver. Alternatively, it could be split into two groups - Combat Power (Force Back, Overrun, Sunder) and Combat Trickery (Disarm, Trip) since that’s how they’re split up to the various classes.
Construction: Mini-engineering for the Fighters and Explorers (and Dwarves) class lists, with full Engineering for the Mages and (cleverer) Dwarves lists. Nice variations.
Contemplation: Only for the divine spellcasters. A nice “one more healing spell” post-combat option.
Disguise: On the list for Assassins and Bards, surprised it’s not on the Thief list.
Dungeon Bashing: Second Best Proficiency Name. Appropriately limited to Fighter/Dwarven Fighter.
Engineering: The only specialist that requires four levels rather than three.
Familiar: That’s… powerful. Effectively doubling the Mage’s functional proficiency choices, but with most of the Mage class list centered on spellcasting (which it doesn’t look like familiars do), and the familiar’s proficiencies not applying directly to the Mage (nothing says they should), most of the viable options are knowledge, languages, odd things like Beast Friendship… exactly the sort of thing you night expect from a familiar. Aside from the occasional toad alchemist, of course. I don’t see anything about replacing a familiar that’s died short of Restore Life and Limb, so I’d expect familiars to be kept safely out of battle. Brilliant.
Fighting Style: Everyone except Mages, unsurprisingly.
Gambling: Only the Bard has both Gambling and Prestidigitation on the class list. Don’t bet against the Bard.
Healing: With three levels, you might expect there to be a healing specialist who could generate income. That’s got to be useful to the town.
Illusion Resistance: Only Mages and Dwarves. It could use a richer “Dungeon Bashing”-like name, like Grim Reality or Piercing Gaze or somesuch.
Land Surveying: Only Explorers and Dwarven Fighters, a little surprised it’s also not on the Craft-Priest list as it seems very Dwarven. The +2 to Caving and Mapping looks like the only cross-proficiency bonus - I wonder if there should be more of those. It also seems like something every Engineer would want access to.
Language: Only on the class list for the Mage.
Locksmithing: Class list only for Thief, Assassin and Nghtblade, implying no Locksmith in the world should be trusted.
Loremastery: There’s very nice interplay between between this and the Collegiate Wizardry/Theology/Knowledge proficiencies, with Loremastery filling in the gaps but only improving through experience.
Magical Music: Class list only for Bard (who starts with it), Bladedancer (dancer and music, makes sense), and… Spellsword? What are Spellswords doing with this? If it’s an Elf thing, why don’t Nightblades get it? Neither of the elves have the prerequisite Perform on the Class list. Odd.
Mimicry: Only Assassin and Bard class lists. Apparently the elves aren’t into that.
Mystic Aura: Mage, Bard, and the elves. Presumably stacks with Intimidation and the Bard parley bonus. This might need clarification if it’s not intended to be a dungeon tool (e.g., the bard walks into the bandit lair threateningly and charms the lot of the them). Very fun.
Naturalism: Edible and poison pools?
Performance: Bard and Bladedancer class lists make sense, Thief and Assassin limited to Acting for their nefarious works, but why is this on the Mage class list?
Profession: Cleric and Craft-Priest judges, but only the Mage has the all-purpose Profession on the Class list. That makes for an undertone of mage-lawyers, mage-scribes, mage-librarians… fascinating.
Prophecy & Soothsaying: I like the contrast between the Divine (friendly) and the Arcane (unfriendly) information source.
Quiet Magic: Full gagging would presumably include magical silence. It might be nice if the name suggested the gesture reduction as well… Subtle Magic, maybe? I see possibilities here for casting spells in public without being noticed.
Sensing Evil: I like the definition of Evil as nonmatching alignment.
Sensing Power: Mage, Cleric, Elves. Looks to be focused on Arcane magic so the Cleric looks out of place, but I guess the gods know what happened.
Survival: The foraging companion to Hunting. I wonder why it’s not just called Foraging.
Tracking: Surprisingly not on the Explorer’s (or anyone’s) Class list.
Unflappable Casting: Eh. Unflappable Failing to Cast at best. I suppose a proficiency throw to cast despite damage would be too much.
Weapon Focus: Everyone except the Mage, who shouldn’t be hitting things with a stick regardless.