5E Lets Rank the 5e Skills!
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  1. #1
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    Lets Rank the 5e Skills!

    Because of backgrounds, 5e classes will have access to more skill types overall than in 3e or 4e. A fighter with perception, or a cleric with sleight of hand is a lot easier to do.

    And that openness opens the door for comparison. What skills are generally the best ones to get all else being equal?

    So I am going to put my initial rating below...with the caveat that this is for a "NORMAL DND Game". For example, there could always be a game where Animal Handling is the most important skill of all time. But I would wager that is not the case in standard dnd play.

    So our ratings:
    A - I want I want I want! (Generally all players will be rolling this skill often in a standard game)
    B - Solidly useful (Most players will have to roll this skill here or there)
    C - Good thing to have, but I could take it or leave it. (Some players will roll this skill a lot, others not so much)
    D - Eh...once in a while (Maybe this skill used a few times in a game. DM intentionally "highlights" it to make it feel useful).
    F - Wait..that's a skill? (DMs wouldn't even think to use this skill unless there was a character specifically trying to make the skill work)


    Acrobatics - C
    Animal Handling - F
    Arcana - C
    Athletics - C
    Deception - C
    History - C
    Insight - A
    Intimidation - C
    Investigation - D
    Medicine - C
    Nature - D
    Perception - A+
    Performance - F
    Persuasion - B
    Religion - C
    Sleight of Hand - C
    Stealth - B
    Survival - C


    The Physical Skills: Acrobatics/Athletics

    Acrobatics - C: I think this generally useful to have and it comes up even for clerics and mages once in a while. Most commonly used for defense against special tactics (like shove).
    Athletics - C: Climbing is a common stable of many games that forces the entire party to climb. Further, it lets you act on offense with manuevers (like shove) and as defense against said maneuvers. A lot of benefits rolled into this skill.

    The Social Skills: Deception/Persuasion/Performance/Intimidation/Insight

    Deception - C: Its one of those skills that some characters will use all of the time, but others will rarely use. Still, its never a bad thing to be able to bluff when the time is right.
    Persuasion - B: THE social skill. Generally if you are talking you want this skill. With this one skill you can turn the stoic fighter into a nobleman.
    Performance - F: Unless your a bard, you will probably never have this skill, and you won't miss it a bit. I would wager most DMs would never ask for this skill roll unless they had a player in the game with the skill and they were trying to make it useful.
    Intimidation - C: Technically can do the same thing persuasion does, but it has such a negative connotation (and often consequences) that I generally find it is less used than persuasion.
    Insight - A: Also known of "Social Perception". DMs love lying NPCs...so it is common for all party members to make insight rolls. This is one skill you just can't avoid in most games, you are going to be making them.

    The Knowledge Skills: Arcana / History / Nature / Religion

    Arcana - C: Magic comes up a lot in most games. Being able to understand magic and magical creatures is useful for everyone.
    History - C: This is assuming this skill gets 4e treatment. 4e's history skill was very useful and covered a wide range of good topics. Probably the closest skill to "bardic lore" in the base game.
    Nature - D: The fact that there is a survival skill that would cover a lot of these, and I find it doesn't come up nearly as often as other knowledge skills in most games.
    Religion - C: Knowledge of Undead almost always comes up in standard dnd, and knowing the gods has its own perks.

    "Black Ops" Skills: Sleight of Hand / Stealth

    Sleight of Hand - C: Thieving is fun! And useful! Even non thieves tend to need to grab something unnoticed once in a while.
    Stealth - B: No matter what type of group you have...at some point the whole party is likely going to be make stealth rolls.

    The Rest: Animal Handling / Perception / Investigation / Medicine / Survival

    Animal Handling - F: Unless you have a druid in the party, or the "animal whisperer" archetype...chances are good this skill will never see the light of day in many campaigns.
    Perception - A+: Long live the king! I would wager since skills started being used...if you were to tally up all the skill checks all characters have ever made...perception (or notice) would be right at the top of the list. Standard Dnd games have dungeon searches and monster ambushes....perception is a stable of the adventuring life. Very very few characters will make it through their careers without a bucket of perception checks made.
    Investigation - D: The red-headed stepchild of perception. A lot of DMs just use perception...and if investigation did not exist in the game no one would notice (because they would be using "notice"!)
    Medicine - C: Doesn't come up too often, but you never know when a character will need to save his buddy, so this skill is good for that.
    Survival - C: Probably the "actual" nature skill for many parties. Comes up a decent amount for wilderness treks, and one that commonly a whole party will be making.


    So how about your list?
    Last edited by Stalker0; Saturday, 19th July, 2014 at 05:46 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Like you mention, some skills you will definitely want at least one party member to have, while others are useful to everyone. I don't think an A-F scale is really a good fit, as some of those "C" skills are vitally important to the party as a whole, and being a C implies they're mediocre.

    Animal Handling: I am a little surprised at some of the decisions made for the 5e skills list, like splitting up 4e Nature into 5e Nature, Survival, and Animal Handling. Personally I'd roll Animal Handling back into Nature.

    Insight: In 4e I let Insight act as sort of a "creative inspiration" skill, for example if the party is stuck a good Insight check might help them gain an additional clue, or re-examine an existing clue in a new light, or suggest a course of action. Even with that addition though, I'd probably rank it a B.

    Acrobatics/Athletics: I'd move these up to B, especially in light of their use in combat to oppose maneuvers.

    Performance: I guess I see this as a multipurpose skill. In certain situations it could be used instead of Intimidation, Persuasion, or Deception. I'd bump it up to D.

  3. #3
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    I think you undervalue quite a few of them.

    Acrobatics/Athletics: Their combat uses alone move them up to B. Using them to help climb or tumble is likewise helpful. Unless your adventures take place in mostly flat surfaces, these are going to come up more than a few times.

    Animal Handling: This cover the ride skill. That moves it to D.

    I think you can bump each of the knowledges up a point also. Esp Arcana. (My players are always asking for info on people, places, and monsters).

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CM View Post
    Like you mention, some skills you will definitely want at least one party member to have, while others are useful to everyone. I don't think an A-F scale is really a good fit, as some of those "C" skills are vitally important to the party as a whole, and being a C implies they're mediocre.

    Animal Handling: I am a little surprised at some of the decisions made for the 5e skills list, like splitting up 4e Nature into 5e Nature, Survival, and Animal Handling. Personally I'd roll Animal Handling back into Nature.

    Insight: In 4e I let Insight act as sort of a "creative inspiration" skill, for example if the party is stuck a good Insight check might help them gain an additional clue, or re-examine an existing clue in a new light, or suggest a course of action. Even with that addition though, I'd probably rank it a B.

    Acrobatics/Athletics: I'd move these up to B, especially in light of their use in combat to oppose maneuvers.

    Performance: I guess I see this as a multipurpose skill. In certain situations it could be used instead of Intimidation, Persuasion, or Deception. I'd bump it up to D.
    This plus the OP of course. I feel a good DM will use investigate a bit more to push it up to C too. Perception is fantastically overused.

  5. #5
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    All I can say is as a DM and player for a long time the skills I have seen the most use are the following. 5E equivalents if the skill does not appear in as named in other games.

    • Perception (This one hands down is the most often used skill)
    • Arcana (many things in a magical world need a better understanding of)
    • Deception (players like to trick npc's almost as much as killing them)
    • History (many players love getting backstory information on the people and places of the world they inhabit)
    • Investigation (learning more about what they have found with perception or finding other clues)
    • Persuasion (some hate this skill I love it, I always call for a diplomacy like check good rp or not)
    • Stealth (people love to play stealth video games no difference here some people just want to be ninjas)
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  6. #6
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    Yeah... the three skills I'm most disappointed in are Animal Handling, Performance, and Sleight of Hand.

    Like as has been said... when you have Nature and Survival, do you really need Animal Handling? Is it truly necessary? Will it ever get used enough to warrant being its own skill? Unless you have lots of horse and carriage chases, I just don't see it.

    Performance seems completely superfluous to me because you probably are going to have Tool proficiencies in musical instruments too... so what exactly will Performance be used for? Those PCs who want to "act" or "sing" rather than play an instrument? I have to assume the Bard class must have some abilities that are based directly off of Performance checks, because otherwise why can't musical instrument Tools or the Persuasion skill suffice for normal checks to influence people?

    And Sleight of Hand (or Fine Motor Skills or whatever you want to imply with it) has always been the red-headed stepchild of thievery skills except in 4E when they wisely merged pickpocketing with opening locks & disarming traps as the Thievery skill. Pickpocketing at least in my games has never warranted its own skill because it is so rarely used. So to split it off from Open Locks and Disarm Traps again (IE the "Thieves Tools" proficiency) is a waste. The only way it could be made useful to my mind would be to actually treat it as "fine motor skills", and thus crafting, knot-tying, and other abilities that require manual dexterity would all fall into its purview.

    I'm still up in the air how exactly I end up using the skill system for my eventual campaign, because there's enough problems with the new system that I don't really like it... but its also integrated enough into Backgrounds and Classes and such that I dunno if I really want to attempt to jerry-rig something else in its place.

  7. #7
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    I would expect each rating to change significantly based on class and probably what sort of character your planning on playing. Medicine might be B+ for a cleric and performance might be an A+ for a bard. Since every PC is going to have a class won't ranking without the context of class be fairly meaningless? Not trying to rain on your parade or anything, just saying...

  8. #8
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    I am curious how slight of hand will work with the thief ability to use it during combat as a cunning action. I imagine swiping the foe's healing potion, wand, or ring might come in handy.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CM View Post
    Animal Handling: I am a little surprised at some of the decisions made for the 5e skills list, like splitting up 4e Nature into 5e Nature, Survival, and Animal Handling. Personally I'd roll Animal Handling back into Nature.
    Personally, I like the three separate. One of my dislikes of 4e was the broadness of the skill.

  10. #10
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    I'm surprised people rate Handling animals so low. Every campaign I've been it has PCs getting and using horses when they can and having mules to carry the treasure. Not knowing how to deal with the animals is not a pretty sight. PCs hate it when the mule carrying thousands in gold goes running off scared into the wilderness.
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