Lessons: A Levelling Mechanic for Class-Less Games
An untested concept for adding a little bit of character specialisation during advancement for class-less games like Knave. When the players are levelling up, ask them:
“What one lesson has your character learned from this adventure?”
The answers might be along the lines of “turns out dragons can hear real good", or “I must not run into the room without checking the ceiling first”, or “do not make the Dwarf Princess angry”. It’s good if the lessons come from a remembrance of a life-or-death situation, something dramatic and storied.
Help each player to translate this lesson into a one-word skill: stealthiness or awareness or decorum.
In surviving the adventure, the player has made something worthwhile of their lessons. From now on, once a session, when rolling an ability check or save based on this skill, your character can roll 3d6 instead of 1d20. This is sort of like the D&D 3e rule of ‘taking 10’ - you can play it safe and lean back on the lessons you’ve learned, not attempting anything exceptional but simply making it more likely that you won’t fuck up spectacularly.
When rolling 1d20, your chance of getting any number is 5%. When rolling 3d6, you have a 25% chance of getting either 10 or 11, and a 23% chance of getting either 9 or 12. You can compare the probabilities at AnyDice. Also, with 3d6, bonuses you add to the dice make a much larger difference to your roll, which works well for a mechanic where you’re working with skills you’ve gained. As Ichoran writes:
[I]f under 3d6 you have a +1 bonus more than someone else, it feels like a +2 difference in d20. +7 feels like +14.
If you learn another lesson in the same skill area, god rest your dumb soul, you can mark off that skill again: you can now roll 4d6 instead of 1d20 once a session, and drop the lowest die to find your total.