So, I think the proficiency system if fairly well done overall -- it allows for a little bit of customisation, without defining the characters or offering a path to power. There are a few proficiences I'm not completely sold on, however.
This is a particularly egregious one, IMO. It's not offering something, it's simply closing off options to anyone that doesn't take the proficiency. The idea that you need this proficiency in order to offer bribes (or benefit from offering bribes) grates. And the system isn't fine-grained enough to distinguish between "normal" bribery and "proficient" bribery. As such, unless I see a compelling method of using it without either making non-proficient bribery horribly nerfed, or proficient bribery ridiculously overpowered, I will simply pretend it doesn't exist.
This seems mostly reasonable, but it's also a death sentence if it gets used often enough, since it forbids withdrawing from combat. You could use it only when you can pretty much gurantee you'll win anyway, but then it's not really offering anything worthwhile. You could save it for moments of last ditch desperation, but then you'd you'd be better off taking something more generally useful. My assumption is that if a player takes this, they want to be able to use it from time to time.
I'm thinking of allowing Wisdom check or something similar, on a round-by-round basis, to try and come down from the rage.
These are individually not too bad but, as has been discussed extensively, they add up to the modifiers that can easily break a 2d6 Reaction system. My solutions is to rever to B/X Reaction mods (+2 for 18 Cha only) and reduce the benefits of the social proficiences to +1 each, not +2. Characters can benefit from Charisma, Mystic Aura and one other proficiency at most, at any given time. This caps modifiers at +4, which requires 18 Cha and two proficiencies. Most characters won't get past +2 unless they're really dedicated.
Edit: Hmm, this wasn't meant to have been posted yet. I have a few more to add, but I will have to come back to this later.
Counterpoint on Berserkergang: The only time you shouldn't use it is when you're going to lose, and if you're going to lose you shouldn't be fighting at all. In paractice it's a trade-off. The +2 to hit is a massive bonus, but it comes at the risk of death if the battle goes worse than you expected. And if you're really worried about it, only give it to your henchmen.
I do agree the social proficiencies are problematic though. I'm working through some ideas about what to do with them in my campaign.
At some point, though, unless the PCs are hyper-risk-averse, they are going to end up in a fight they can't handle -- whether due to misinformation, poor judgement or just bad luck. Berserkergang removes the option of even trying to withdraw, and thus the PC dies the first time that happens.
One of the things I always try to drive home any time I'm about to run a game with potentially high lethality is that the PCs need to know when to cut their losses and bravely run away. Berserkergang, as written, removes that as an option.
Edit: A better way of expressing this -- the smart way of going about your business in a dangerous OSR world is to avoid putting yourself into a position you can't possibly get yourself out of if things go worse than expected. Beserkergang, as writtent, is the antithesis of this.
This one annoys me as something that is both hyper-specialised and likely to come up only on a handful of occasions, if ever, but also something that some characters would really like to have (and really should have) if they end up leading armies, if only because they don't want to feel like incompetents force to rely on aides to translate signals for them. Basically, while it's easy enough to justify the profiency as written, I don't see the game benefiting in any way from telling a general he can't read his army's signals because he hasn't spent one of his few proficiency slots on it.
My solution is to make Signalling primarily the ability to perform signals, and allow anyone with a relevant military organisation/leadership proficiency the ability to interpret signals.
All The Rest
I initially found a lot of the magic enhancing proficiencies a little concerning -- they provide some pretty significant benefits. This, however, is balanced pretty well by the mage's limit of three class proficiencies over the course of their career.
Overall, I'm quite impressed with the effort that's gone into the proficiency system. There are plenty of useful options, none that are must-haves, and the best ones (ie, caster enhancements) are going to involve hard choices due to limited selections. The fairly benign nature of most general proficiencies also means players shouldn't feel compellted to take certain must-have power-up proficiences over more flavourful ones.
I'm also liking the template system from the Players Campaign. I was umming and ahhing about the fact that it prevents players from building the character they want, but eventually two things swayed me to fully supporting it:
- First, making the players roll for templates reinforces that the proficiencies are flavour, and maybe a slight bonus over a standard B/X class, but they don't define core competencies.
- Second, the official character gen process is to make five characters and discard two. Typically, I'd expect that, in practice, this means roll five sets of stats and discard two, but there's nothing stopping players from actually making five full characters, all the way down to the templates, and picking one that gets their preferred template.
I've run up against the weirdness of bribery in my own campaign. I resolved it by houseruling that you can bribe people without the poficiency, but that if you do, you only get the bonus to the reaction roll and not the re-roll. This means that without the bribery proficiency, bribery is effective in fewer situations... But I'm not super fond of it as a solution.
Yeah, I just don't think the system is fine-grained enough to have multiple "skill levels" of bribery. I don't think anything of consequence is lost by just dropping it entirely.
As to berserkergang, I'm kind of coming around on it as something that simply isn't a "safe" option. Since I plan to use random template selection as per the Players Companion, this means I'll need to adjust the templates including the proficiency to give another option.