The High Aldwin
I agree the d20 is too random. We have gone to 2d10 instead, which takes out the linear distribution. We also did 3d20 (take the middle) which works well, and a hybrid 2d20 (attacks have disadvantage, saves have advantage, ability checks are 1d20). Each system has its pros and cons.I don't see it. By nature off adding a do or die to checks you are going to make sure you have the highest possible modifiers and avoid attempting anything outside of the stuff you specifically built for. The D20 is just too random otherwise.
Regardless, it means PCs who are built for task X should be the ones to do it. Other PCs can "help", granting advantage, if they could feasibly succeed as well. I don't want a PC to be able to do anything simply because the d20 IS so random!
But, being "specifically built for" IMO just means having proficiency in something or have a high ability modifier. If you also have both, you are really good at task X. Often IME the really good people will receive help from the decent ones, and with advantage the fail by more than 5 doesn't happen a lot--but it happens enough to show that PCs are fallible.
Sure, I agree completely. If the PC doesn't get proficiency in Athletics, for example, then why should they be able to swim? They can try to use just Strength, of course, but unless they are really strong will probably fail.I like the idea of players making decisions in response to the world and the world responding in kind rather than trying to filler the world through their sheets of buttons to mash.
Finally, it should be noted that very easy tasks can't fail by more than 5 (unless you have a negative modifier!), and with just base proficiency an easy task will fail by more than 5 only 10% of the time. If two PCs can work together on that easy task, it is much less! Once you get to a hard task, the chance of failure is 60% with just proficiency +2 alone. But that works for me-- the task is HARD after all, and you have only base proficiency. IMO you should fail that more often than not. YMMV of course.
EDIT: I should add we use the Variant Rule for Automatic Success as well to reduce rolling when the task should be routine since we put a lot of emphasis on having proficiency (see highlighted section).