I am playing in a campaign I made myself using homebrewed rules based on a German pen-and-paper RPG called Das Schwarze Auge (DSA; The Dark Eye in English).

I heavily influenced the character creation of my current group to help them generate flawed, unique and distinctive characters with different profession instead of having them min-max every stat to be the optimal fighter as it often happened in previous groups where I played in.

Now, despite their wide variety of skills, they mostly just rush in the next encounter, fight until dawn and then leave for the next adventure without follwing their profession. Due to their diversity not everyone is suited for every combat situation, which can make some sessions a little boring for a few players.

I'd like to encourage my group into using their non-combat skills, so even characters with sub-optimal combat performance can have their chance to shine, but I neither do I want to simply put in a ton of obstacles, which simply require skill-ckecks to solve - this is rather annoying, especually if you fail - nor do I want to abolish dice rolls and just grant skilled characters a free pass in obstacles regarding their profession, because this would defeat the purpose of an 'obstacle'

My best idea to make skills more meaningful was to encourage my players into role-playing their professions better. Instead of having my blacksmith go to a forge, roll his skill check and return with a new sword, I'd like to have him spending some effort to describe his work as vibrant as possible like heating the forge, checking for the perfect glow of the metal, refreshing it before it cools down. There might even be more skill checks in this process as before, but it feels more like getting something done and I have more possibilites to vary the outcome based on the effort they put in to convincing me they are determined to create something trule outstanding.

However, I don't know how I can suggest this idea without making my players feel like they are forced to roleplay jobs they have no clue about. I don't want this to backfire at me and have them use their skills even less, because they fear they can't describe them sufficiently.

I don't want my mechanic to feel like he has to know exactly how a clockwork works, but I want him to do a little more than to roll a die everytime something breaks and then continues without much effort.

(Interestingly my group has no problem using combat-skills and looking for weakpoints instead blindly swiniging their weapons at an enemy with an armored chestplate.)

So, yea: What way are there to encourage players to spend more time in roleplaying their skills, so they can become a more important part of the adventure?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Did you talk to your players about the type of game you're aiming for? Are they interested in that type of game? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave Costa
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 23:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ How much/what did you homebrew? Does rolling dice still work the same way? And do want this only for skills like smithing, carpentry and the like or for most (non-combat) skills including sneaking and persuading ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kekse
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 10:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You mention that lots of combat "can make some sessions a little boring for a few players." Have you considered that 15 minutes of "I hit the perfectly-glowing metal, then quench it and heat it again" might also be boring for the players of non-smith characters? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. I just talked to my players, they seem okay with the idea per se, but are a little worried they might have difficulties to roleplay adequately (after all I don't want them to feel like having to spend 30 minutes carefully roleplaying every little aspect of mundane and boring tasks like preparing an ordinary stew). 2. I homebrewed mostly my combat and magic systems while leaving skill-checks untouched. 3. Right now my sessions are 70% combat and 25% talking, because nobody feels like they can have fun in anything but that. Thus I'd like to 'buff' their professions beyond simple dice rolls. \$\endgroup\$
    – Azzarrel
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ On what version of DSA/TDE did you base your Homebrew? \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 9:53

3 Answers 3


Since your players are ok with roleplaying their skill checks more I can recommend two ways that can work with DSA/TDE.

1. Give bonuses for detailed descriptions

This has worked well for me so far.

DSA/TDE has extensive lists of modifiers for many skill checks. Modifying skill checks is absolutely normal. Invent your own modifiers (on the fly or write them down for consistency). If they want to do things, ask them how they want to do them. Detailed descriptions alone can give bonuses. Up to +5 to a skill test is ok for balance (4.1 or 5.ed). Announce this before your next session and remind them during the session as this is new to them.

Important: Dont force them to come up with descriptions if they have no idea because that will break the flow of your game and their motivation. It's ok for now. Move on, ask them the next time again.

If thats not enough or if they repeat the same descriptions again and again, incentivize them to "get the right tools" or make decisions:

Ask a player trying to smith, if he wants to use that impure coal present in the smithy they rented from the local blacksmith. And does he really want to use those old and crude tools present? Let them prepare. If they got no ideas on their own it is your task to pitch them some ideas (take notes beforehand, research just a little bit online). If those thing wouldn't work in real life it's ok, because nobody in your group knows better. If someone knows, they can give ideas (or accept this inaccuracy).

Ask a player who is going to find a campsite what he wants from that campsite: Protection or comfort? Far from the road or close by?...

Each decision has benifical and disadvantageous events that can occur. The player choose high protection? For example in the night a wild animal tries to attack them but is unable to effectively climb up to them and retreats. Or their high ground is fine for the night and also protects them from the heavy rain but the rain has blocked their way back/force them to go on a detour but they discover something good/interesting on this trip.

Important: Take into consideration how good their roll was. Don't just penalise them. Only give fair and interesting (for the players) consequences. Offer opportunities.

Over time they should expect your questions and come up with things they want directly.

2. Design quests around the skills

This works best for crafting-skills but can be adopted for many other skills. This also works for different other systems not only DSA/TDE as it relies on your worldbuilding and imagination. I will give two examples to illustrate this concept:

Example 1:

As they travel along the road they encounter a rather large group of people repairing the road after a landslide. These people have a lot of problems and a incompetent no leader at all .

For example a brigde was destroyed but they got no carpenter or builder at hand. But you players have the skill needed. Let them organize everything on their own. Find jobs for the other players.

You have a character that is very good at healing the sick? Perfect, there were many accidents in the past and people are tending their relatives as good as they can. Let your player collect clean cloth, get more medical supplies from other people that are reluctant to give them away.

Medical supplies are running short? But a player can collect herbs and make medicine...

Food is running low -> hunting

Wild animals -> combat/hunting


Every skill has it's purpose. It's your task to create opportunities.

Example 2:

The Aventurischer Bote (newspaper) tells about a contest. A count wants to find a good smith. Let you players collect the finest materials (legal or on the blackmarket). They need a good equipped smithy (see above) so they have to persuade the local blacksmith to rent them the smithy (and maybe do some quests for the blacksmith/town first).

Finally they win the contest and are invited to visit the castle of the count. Here you can insert another plot (Murder, gods, magic,... the usual). But as they are pusuing this new plot (maybe secretly), the count also demands more masterwork forged goods. So they have to split their attention between both tasks and find ways to repair damage if they let one thing down for too long (soothe the angry count/find fresh leads on that other quest).

This is a hard to accomplish task but can be a lot of fun (and way less railroady that normal DSA campaigns). Ask your players first, if this is the kind of quest they want to play as this might differ significantly from your current playstyle.

Side note

Continue to talk to your players out of the game. Check regularly if they enjoy this kind of game. If not, then stop trying and find another solution whatever that is (different campaing/system/characters/player group).


I have been playing in a Dark Eye RPG 5th edition campaign for months... so I understand your approach :)

The rules of TDE are perfect for specific professional characters — it’s a skill-based system.

For me you can make professional skills more interesting with the Special Abilities (SA) and Trade Secrets. You have all the rules in Aventuria Compendium. You can, for example, push your heroes to look for an ancient crafting technique, long forgotten but necessary to kill a unique creature. (Dragonlance inspiration.) You can also use Cumulative Skill Checks to create suspense and tension in a difficult situation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please note that the Aventuria Compendium is for Version 5 of TDE. OP might be basing their homebrew on one of the other 5 versions (1-4 or 4.1) \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ The TDE 5th edition System give numerous tools for GM to « play » with craft or knowledge. The skills rules with the QL (quality levels), bonus and malus for tests also. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dany40
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 12:45

One of the best ways I've seen a GM encourage role playing is to grant bonuses towards a dice roll based on how a player describes or role plays the action that they are doing. For example if your blacksmith described the care and attention he would take while making a sword start giving him some +1 or +2 modifiers towards the crafting rolls, depending on their description and details. Of course as you and the players become more comfortable with this have negatives also show up, also depending on their descriptions and potential details.

Now for players that may not be used to this you might have to guide them. The best way I've seen this handled is by asking leading questions, like "How do you examine the clock, do you look for a mark from a clock maker?" for example.

As a player I love it when a GM helps to immerse the player further into the roll, it helps the game feel more alive and gives their decisions more impact. Of course at certain times players may not be able to come up extra details, simply because they don't know much about the subject or skill. This will take some more research from you, to possibly help with some details the players might not know. Also if a player seems too resistant to describing in details or unable to think of additional details don't be afraid to revert back to the simple dice check.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you add any citation of experience of how this has worked out in TDE? Answers ought to be actually based on some baseline experience with the system the question is about, so as to ensure the advice is actually relevant. TDE and some other systems are prone to getting generic advice with no assurance of relevance. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 1:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah apologies I didn't realize the question was regarded specifically to Das Schwarze Auge. However looking a little into the system's rolling mechanics, adding negative modifiers to well thought out details can help to reinforce players adding details to their actions and rolls. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daishid
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 5:24

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