A skills hypothesis


We know that D&D Next currently uses a simplified skills system, with a fully fledged skills system still in development.

The current skills system calls for a d20 roll, to which you add your ability modifier and your class/race/theme modifiers for the particular skill application (if any) and you compare this to either an opposed roll or a static DC.

It's been emphasized that the progression (including the combat progression) will no longer be as quick as it used to be. Nor will the numbers go as high.

Ability scores will matter, but won't matter so much that you have to have an 18 in your primary stat.

Taking all this information into account, I've distilled a proposal of how this system might work, and how it could be expanded to fit a more detailed skill system.

First of all, the "flattened" ability scores:

Score	Modifier
3-5	-2
6-8	-1
9-11	+0
12-14	+1
15-17	+2
18-20	+3

This is about as flat as I believe they'll go. The math for the modifier is, of course, (ability score - 9) / 3.

Not only is the distribution flatter, 18 now "feels" special.

Now for the check DCs:

Rank/Difficulty		DC
Layman (+0)		10
Apprentice (+4)		13
Journeyman (+6)		16
Expert (+8)		19
Master (+10)		22
Grand Master (+12)	25
Paragon (+14)		28

What this means:

At level 1, you will receive a +2 bonus to ability checks (and checks only) for the stat that is important to your class: Str for fighters, Dex for rogues, Int for wizards, and so on.

Also at level 1, you will receive a +2 bonus to ability checks for the stat important to your race (Con for dwarves, Dex for elves, etc.), and a +2 bonus to ability checks for the stat important to your theme.

The total modifier you have in that skill determines your "rank" (apprentice, journeyman, etc.). If you manage to get all three bonuses in a single ability and have the ability modifier of +2, you could be an Expert at 1st level! Not bad at all.

Now the mechanics:

If your rank is two or more ranks higher than the challenge, you pass the check automatically. No dice rolling necessary.

If your rank is within one step of the challenge, you need to make a check. The DC is presented in the chart.

If the challenge is two or more steps above your rank, you may not attempt the check. You can, however, try to lower the difficulty somehow and then attempt the check.

On expanding the skill list:

An optional skills module may look like this:

Create a focused list of skills (20 skills total). Gain a +2 bonus to all “class,” "race," and "theme" skills at level 1. At each level above 1st, pick 6 skills to improve by +1. You may improve a skill that's not favored by your class, race and theme by spending 2 improvement slots.

This adds more granularity and breadth, while the math remains more or less the same. The number of skills to improve is arbitrary.

To increase granularity even more, you can expand the skill list more (to 30 skills, for example), but you also need to increase the number of skills improved by level.

The system is consistent (same DCs across the board) and provides an easily modded framework. It combines some aspects of NWPs and 3.x/4e skills. It has built-in auto success and auto failure.

What sayeth you?

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