by Mike Shea on 30 August 2010
Update: OK, this probably wasn't a great idea. There appears to be a lot of overlap between my ideas for how to use these skills and actual rituals. I'd still like to find a way to make skills more specific so we can actually tell what using an arcana check means when we're in the middle of a skill challenge, but replicating rituals probably isn't the right answer. Now, back to the original article....
By design, skills in 4th Edition, aren't very well defined. This gives us wide open avenues to explore interesting stories but it can also be a hinderance when we have no real idea what our characters might be doing. Consider the following example:
A wizard comes up to a magic door, the wizard uses perception to discover the door is magically locked and trapped. He uses "arcane" to disarm the door. Sure, we might get a player to say something like "Alfond calls upon arcane forces to remove the power from the glyph" but what the hell does that really mean?
What if we had a better list of some potential uses for the skills someone is trained in? Sure, we dont want to use these to LIMIT a skill, but these might be some well defined ways to use a skill on top of more creative uses the PCs might come up with.
Below you'll find some specific uses for Arcane, Religious, and Nature skills for those trained in those disciplines.
The following skill examples are actual spells an arcane character might keep in a spell book or call upon when tapping into otherworldly sources of power. As mentioned above, these are not the only uses for the Arcane skill, but give some useful tools to consider when calling upon arcane spells.
Knock: A powerful magical blow to an object. Most often used to break open a locked door.
Detect and Identify Magic: A spell used to help a wizard detect magic in an area or identify magic on a particular object.
Dispel Magic: Used to disrupt an existing magical source. Useful for removing wards, magical protections, or disrupting magical zones. Note, this is of somewhat limited power (up to the DM's discretion)
Remove Ward (Reversible): An arcane spell used to remove a magical ward on an object, door, or area. Reversing this spell can place a magical ward on an object, door, or area.
Minor Telekinesis: A limited telekinesis spell enabling the caster to move small objects. Size, weight, speed and other criteria are up to the DM.
Light (Reversible): Create a light source in an area equivalent to a sunrod. Reversing this spell extinguishes a light source in an area.
Flame: Create a small flame.
Ghost Sound: Create a sound within a limited area determined by the DM.
Alarm (Reversible): Create a ward that alerts the caster when a certain condition is met. Reverse it to disarm an existing alarm.
Arcane Sight: Use arcane magics to see long distances.
Clairvoyance, Claraudience: Dramatically increase your ability to see and hear.
Message: Send a telepathic message some distance away. The distance is determined by the DM.
Read Magic: Call upon arcane sources to help you read arcane texts or texts in a language you do not understand.
Tongues: Call upon extraplanar entities to help you understand unknown languages.
One trained in nature is able to know much more about the natural world around them. The specific skills below represent a naturalist's ability to talk to the earth, the trees, and the animals around them.
Find food and drink: Locate sources of food and drink in the surrounding area.
Purify Food and Drink (Reversible): Remove any poisons or impurities from food or drink. Can be reversed to poison or foul food or drink.
Track (Reversible): Locate the path of a moving creature through a natural area. Can be reversed to hide tracks.
Sanctuary: Create or find a sanctuary, a safe area where a group might be able to take a short rest or possibly an extended rest. The availability of such a place is up to the DM.
Eagle Eye: Call upon the natural elements around you to see far off into the distance.
Endure Elements: Using your understanding of nature you're able to improve your endurance of harsh elements.
Speak with Plants or Animals: The hero uses his understanding of nature to speak and listen to plants or animals. What they know beyond the scent of ones genitals is up to the DM.
One trained in religion is much more attuned to his or her deity and the deity is also more attuned to the devout. The specific skills below represent prayers the devout is able to call upon to aid in his or her quest on behest of his or her god.
Sanctify Item or Place (Reversible): The devout is able to call upon one's faith to remove any existing evil impurities from an object or place. Reversible to place evil impurities within an object or area (though this is not looked favorably by one's deity).
Consecrate (Reversible): Protect an area or item from evil penetrations. Reversible to reduce the ability to protect an area from evil influence.
Detect Curse: Call upon divine insights to detect evil curses placed in an area, on a doorway, or on an object.
Remove Curse (Reversible): Remove a curse placed on an object, doorway, or an area. Reversible to place a curse on an area, doorway, or object.
Commune with the Divine: Seek the advice and council of divine elements including possibly one's deity.
Purify food and water: Unlike the natural version of this skill, this removes magical or unnatural impurities from food or water. This is reversible, putrefying food and water by drawing all life giving effects from food or water.
Again, the above specific actions aren't meant to limit a skill but to offer suggestions for its use. Hopefully, with more specificity, players are more likely to know what options they have available in a given situation. If you have your own ideas for these three skills, please post them in a comment below.
Note: I will be updating this list as I learn more about this idea.