5E Proficiency vs Non-Proficiency

Poll: How many times out of 20 attempts would no skill win out over ultimate skill?

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  1. #1
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    Proficiency vs Non-Proficiency

    In my discussion at our table yesterday, I thought I would do a poll to get some feedback from the 5E community here. Now, I am expecting certain results, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    You have two people: one has no proficiency to a skill or attack, the other is 20th level and with the highest proficiency possible. Now, remember, we are talking ONLY proficiency or not, there is no ability score bonus, magic, etc. to add. Also, I am not considering Expertise, but that is a very valid issue to consider.

    I can do the math, that isn't what I am looking for! I know what the 5E system says as far as how often the unskilled person will win. So again, the question isn't the math; it is your feeling, gut-reaction/instinct to the idea.

    In a contest between the two (out of 20 attempts each), how often do you feel or think an unskilled, non-proficient person should better a person of ultimate skill?

    If you don't like the options, please answer and explain your own take. Thanks to all for participating and your feedback.


    (EDITED to add comment about Expertise since the ability to double proficiency bonus cannot assist in attack rolls but many thanks to S'mon for mentioning it.)
    Last edited by dnd4vr; Friday, 26th April, 2019 at 12:12 AM.
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    I went with the second option (10-15 percent), because you aren't accounting for stats in this. I think the untrained character should still have a 5% chance, even if their ability modifier is slightly lower, but not if it's their dump stat.

    Edit: I just noticed the specific wording. Are you asking about attack rolls, or skill checks? Because there's a huge difference in "ultimate skill level" between the two. My previous answer was regarding proficiency vs non-proficiency; i.e. a level 20 fighter with proficiency in History, vs a fighter without proficiency in History. That's the scenario where I expect the trained historian to come out on top 95% of the time.
    Last edited by Saelorn; Thursday, 25th April, 2019 at 11:43 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dnd4vr View Post
    I can do the math, that isn't what I am looking for! I know what the 5E system says as far as how often the unskilled person will win. So again, the question isn't the math; it is your feeling, gut-reaction/instinct to the idea.
    .
    To be honest, my gut instinct is this question feels like a trap.
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  4. #4
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    It would kind of depend on the skill. Some skills should have less variance in possible results than the other.
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  5. #5
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    My own take is I don't have any particular gut feeling or other expectation about how those numbers should shake out. "Should" is a risky mindset to have in a game that shares elements with childhood games of make-believe and is driven by imagination. In my view, such a game is better approached with the mindset of "could," "might," "may," or "can" rather than a mindset of "should", "would," or "must."

    So however that math works out (and I'd be interested to see the numbers), it's fine by me. After all, maybe that's just how it works in this world of swords and sorcery.
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  6. #6
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    Since we are speaking of am expert in a skill vs unskilled you look at a +12 bonus.
    If you do a stealth vs passive perception check, it is a 100% success rate. This is ok.

    If you go with a contest it is d20+12-d20 which needs to be greater than 0 for the exper to win. Or equal to 0 to have a draw which would be sufficient

    A total of 400 outcomes. Lets count the number of dice rolls which result in failures:
    First die 20: 0 numbers on the second die result in a failure.
    19: 0
    18 to 8: 0
    7: 1
    6: 2
    5: 3
    4: 4
    3: 5
    2: 6
    1: 7
    0: 8

    The sum is 8*9/2 = 36.
    36/400 is slightly below 1 in 20 chance to beat the expert. Which I voted for.
    If the expert has advantage or better stats the untrained has litterally no chance.

    My personal opinion:
    Each class should have a field of expertise. Wizard: arcane. Cleric: religion. Rogue: any 3. Ranger: stealth, perception or survival. Fighter: athletics or peception maybe. You get the point. At least there should be an option to ger expertise in a single skill for any class, not only the rogue. Especially when the skill is iconic and the related stat rather lackluster. Cleric, hm, religion, hm.
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    My question is: what is this trying to accomplish? That random dice rolls will sometimes produce odd results? Sure. But why is an unskilled character being asked to try and accomplish a task that apparently tests an ultimate skilled character? A brain surgeon rolling dice against a dolt is obviously going to lose some of the time, but doesnt mean I want the dolt to open my head up!

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dnd4vr View Post
    In my discussion at our table yesterday, I thought I would do a poll to get some feedback from the 5E community here. Now, I am expecting certain results, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    You have two people: one has no proficiency to a skill or attack, the other is 20th level and with the highest proficiency possible. Now, remember, we are talking ONLY proficiency or not, there is no ability score bonus, magic, etc. to add.

    I can do the math, that isn't what I am looking for! I know what the 5E system says as far as how often the unskilled person will win. So again, the question isn't the math; it is your feeling, gut-reaction/instinct to the idea.

    In a contest between the two (out of 20 attempts each), how often do you feel or think an unskilled, non-proficient person should better a person of ultimate skill?

    If you don't like the options, please answer and explain your own take. Thanks to all for participating and your feedback.
    But you haven't described "ultimate" skill, you've described "casual skill by a master".

    "Ultimate" skill is boosted by expertise, by natural ability (ability scores), perhaps by feats.

    This is the difference between "I don't know this" and "I have familiarity with it and in general a lot of experience".
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  9. #9
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    Hmm, this looks like a trick question. All else being equal, a skilled person would have their proficiency bonus and an unskilled person wouldn't, right? According to the rules, I mean.

    Proficiency ranges from +2 to +6, which is a range of +10% to +30% on a d20. So a skilled person would beat an unskilled person about 10-30% of the time. This implies that the unskilled laborer would equal or exceed the skilled one about 70-90% of the time. So that's how I would vote.

    That said: there's nothing wrong with house-ruling that every class gets Expertise in one skill. If it works for your table, rock on. (Personally, I'd make it a feat. +1 to the skill's ability score, choose one skill you are proficient with and gain Expertise with it, done.)
    Last edited by CleverNickName; Friday, 26th April, 2019 at 12:06 AM.

  10. #10
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    If you however spoke about +6 prodiciency bonus, it is (14*15/2)/400 = 105/400 ~ slightly above 5 in 20 chance to fail as 'expert'. So it is between option 3 or 4.

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