This is the ability to cope with the challenges of harsh environments: shelter, navigating to civilization, foraging for food and water, hunting and so on. It includes knowledge of the common threats posed by a particular sort of wilderness, such as forest or swamp. Stealth rolls in wilderness cannot include more dice from stealth than the character has dots in survival.

• Novice: You can cope with the routine challenges of whatever sort of wilderness was closest to your home.
•• Practiced: You won’t starve in most environments, though it won’t be comfortable until you get to the next settlement.
••• Competent: You can get yourself and others to safety in most circumstances, and you can make an effective living off the fruits of hunting, trapping and the like.
•••• Expert: You can blaze new paths through the unbroken wilderness and cope with almost any challenge that the natural world can throw at you.
••••• Master: The dark powers of the night (and day) in the lands beyond civilization hold no terror for you.

  • Possessed by: Bandits, Barbarians, Crusaders, Penitents, Pilgrims, Refugees, Hunters
  • Specialties: Coasts and Shallows, Deep Sea, Deserts, Foraging, Forests, Hunting, Marshes and Swamps, Mountains, Tracking, Trailblazing.


Stealth is the ability to move without alerting others – to enter without permission, remain undetected while about one’s self-appointed business and to leave without creating a stir. You generally roll this Skill in combination with Dexterity against observers’ Perception + Alertness. It does not cover sleight-of-hand, which is the domain of Legerdemain.

• Novice: You can make your way through familiar places without attracting attention as long as no one’s searching very actively for you.
•• Practiced: You can hide yourself fairly well in unfamilliar places that are related to something you know, such as any church following the standard orientation.
••• Competent: You move in mysterious ways, and it takes dedicated effort to keep you out of most places you’d like to go.
•••• Expert: You enjoy the reputation of being able to bypass almost all barriers… which makes you a frequent target of suspicion, as well as valuable to those who have need of stealthy allies.
••••• Master: You feature in the ballads of master thieves, questing knights who make their way into the Grail Castle and others who triumph over all obstacles. Your gift seems holy or wicked depending on how you apply it.

  • Possessed by: Burglars, Hunters, Scouts, Shy People, Spies.
  • Specialties: Crawling, Crowds, Prowl, Shadows, Wilderness, Tracking


Ride is the ability to travel astride a horse or other riding animal, keeping it under control in varying circumstances. Experienced riders can fight from horseback, tend horses’ common ailments and evaluate the quality of their mounts and related gear. See p.244 for the details of fighting on horseback.

• Novice: You can get around on a good mount so long as things don’t get complicated.
•• Practiced: You can hunt, chase and sustain long rides safely, if not always comfortably.
••• Competent: Horses hold very few surprises for you, and you can fight from horseback without penalty.
•••• Expert: You can engage in fancy stunts and keep your horse calm and healthy in the midst of dangerous, rapidly changing situations. You’re the one who gets called on when most people fall and fail.
••••• Master: Alexander the Great and his Bucephalas were no closer than you are with your favored steeds, as troubadours routinely remind their audiences.

  • Possessed by: Circuit Officials, Crusaders, Huntsmen, Knights, Merchants, Messengers, Nobles, Travelers.
  • Specialties: Combat,Forest, Jumping, Speed, Stealth, Stunts.


Performance is the ability to perform artistic feats. It covers both the technical aspects of the chosen form of expression and the social knowledge of what audiences like. Performance is a catch-all Ability, and you should choose a field of expertise when you first purchase it. You can buy aditional fields of expertise with expirience or bonus points. Performance is useful outside your field of expertise to evaluate another’s skill.

• Novice: You can entertain friends and family when more skillful alternatives aren’t available.
•• Practiced: You take part in local entertainments on a regular basis, and you do fairly well at them.
••• Competent: You can make a living as an entertainer, and you enjoy a reputation as a good one to call upon.
•••• Expert: Your fellow performers study your work carefully. The masses flock to see you in your specialty.
••••• Master: You can pick and choose your audiences, and you are allwaysin demand almost everywhere you go.

  • Possessed by: Musicians, Troubadours, Actors, Ladies, Spinsters, Monks and Nuns.
  • Specialties: Acting, Dance, Percussion, Singing, Stringed Instruments, Wind Instruments.


Melee is the ability to fight with hand-to-hand weapons, from sticks and clubs to swords and more exotic weapons, depending on the details of the characters training. Like Archery, Melee includes the ability to maintain one’s weapons (and even to make them), but manufacturing metal weapons requires Crafts.

• Novice: You can handle simple weapons and any weapons that are particularly popular in the area where you grew up. You can maintain but not repair a weapon.
•• Practiced: You can fight moderately well with common weapons. You can do basic repairs on an axe or other simple melee weapons.
••• Competent: You know how to use a variety of weapons well, and you can make a living as a professional soldier if you choose. You can do basic repairs on a sword or more complex melee weapon. You can manufacture simple melee weapons.
•••• Expert: You routinely distinguish yourself in battles, tournaments and other martial displays.
••••• Master: Everyone who uses your favored weapons knows your deeds – which may breed challenges as well as respect.

  • Possessed by: Barbarians, Guards, Lords, Soldiers, Thieves
  • Specialties: Axes, Clubs, Disarms, Knives, Multiple Opponents, Rapid Draws, Swords, Team Tactics


Etiquette is the understanding of social customs in one or more cultures and the ability to behave as becomes one of their members. Characters begin with this knowledge as applies to the land and class into which they were born. Mastery of Etiquette encompasses speech, movement, dress, furnishings and the like.

• Novice: You avoid most social gaffes and seem reasonably well behaved in the culture you know best.
•• Practiced: You can condust yourself without embarrassment in your cultures version of high society.
••• Competent: You understand the principles of social organization well enough to respond calmly to unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances.
•••• Expert: Lords and bishops admire your conduct.
••••• Master: You set the standards to which others try to hew.

  • Possessed by: Children, Courtiers, Envoys, Guild Masters, Handmaidens, Heralds, Nobles.
  • Specialties: Courtly Manners, Family Traditions, Foreign Customs, Peasents, Professional Conduct, Street Culture.


Crafts is a catch-all Ability covering skill at making and fixing things with your hands and ecaluating such work by others. Skilled craftsmen produce works known for their beauty as well as their utility. You must choose a field of expertise when you first purchase Crafts and buy additional ones with experience or bonus points within standard limits (see p. 142.) You can use Crafts outside your field(s) of expertise to undertake basic repairs and evaluate the craftsmanship and condition of an object, but not to build anything new. Doing so is considered acting without the required Ability.
In the Dark Medieval, the Crafts Skill covers what will in later centuries become applied sciences such as engineering. Architecture, metallurgy and so on are all fields of expertise under Crafts.

• Novice: You can repair broken goods and make gear that more or less does what it’s supposed to do.
•• Practiced: You can attend to the needs of people in your immediate vicinity for the craft you know.
••• Competent: You can make a good living as an artisan or craftsman, and you enjoy the respect of all who call on your services.
•••• Expert: You routinely make excellent goods that are treasured widely for their elegance and durability.
••••• Master: You’re one of the leading craftsmen in your field, and you can pick and choose from clients across several countries.

  • Possessed by: Artisans, Farmers, Ladies, Pilgrims, Soldiers, Townsfolk.
  • Specialties: Architecture, Armory, Blacksmithing, Boat-Building, Jewelry, Masonry, Sewing & Embroidery, Woodworking, etc.


Archery is the ability to use bows, the most common ranged weapon of the era. Experienced archers also know how to maintain and repair their weapons, and even how to make them. Archery covers crossbows and other related weapons. It does not cover spears or other thrown weapons. Using those weapons requires Athletics.

• Novice: You can shoot adequately as long as the situation isn’t too distracting. You can maintain a bow, but not repair it.
•• Practiced: You can hunt and fight competently with the bow. You can maintain and repair a bow, but not craft a new one.
••• Competent: You can use a bow with grace and style, and you can make weapons that are respected for their craftsmanship.
•••• Expert: Warlords and others who need superior archers seek you out.
••••• Master: Neither distance, darkness nor anything else seems capable of stopping your arrows from going precisely where you want them to.

  • Possessed by: Bandits, Foresters, Guards, Poachers, Tournament-Circuit Competitors.
  • Specialties: Ambush, Fields, Forest, Horseback, Hunting, Moving Targets, Quick Shot, Target.

Animal Ken

Animal Ken is an understanding of beasts’ actions and desires. It allows one to predict their behavior, control them in difficult situations and train them.

• Novice: You work well with domesticated animals.
•• Practiced: You understand the ways of all the animals that are common in your vicinity, and you can train those species most susceptible to it, such as horses and dogs.
••• Competent: You’re a skilled hunter and tracker, and you work well even with difficult animals. Everyone in the area knows you’re the one to come to when there’s animal trouble.
•••• Expert: No domesticatd animal resist your will, and most wild beasts regard you with at least some good will.
••••• Master: People compare your spiritual harmony with animals to Saint Francis’s.

  • Possessed by: Cavalry, Falconers, Grooms, Hermits, Kennel Masters, Lords.
  • Specialties: Bears, Birds of Prey, Dogs, Farm animals, Fish, Horses, Rodents, Snakes.