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Enlightened Grognard: Reducing the Skill List

Which of the following changes do you approve of (check all that apply)?

  • Appraise → Knowledge

    Votes: 16 45.7%
  • Balance, Escape Artist, Tumble → Acrobatics (new skill)

    Votes: 27 77.1%
  • Climb, Jump, Swim → Athletics (new skill)

    Votes: 24 68.6%
  • Concentration, Survival → Endurance;

    Votes: 5 14.3%
  • Decipher Script, Speak Language → Linguistics (new skill)

    Votes: 20 57.1%
  • Disguise → Bluff

    Votes: 20 57.1%
  • Forgery → Craft

    Votes: 19 54.3%
  • Gather Information → Diplomacy and/or Intimidate

    Votes: 15 42.9%
  • Hide → Stealth

    Votes: 28 80.0%
  • Listen, Spot → Perception

    Votes: 30 85.7%
  • Open Lock, Use Rope → Sleight of Hand

    Votes: 7 20.0%
  • Ride → Handle Animal;

    Votes: 10 28.6%
  • Tumble → removed; these abilities are realized as feats instead

    Votes: 9 25.7%
  • Use Magic Device → Knowledge or Bluff

    Votes: 3 8.6%

  • Total voters
    35

amnuxoll

First Post
If you're one of the majority of folks who think that the skill system in 3.5e has too many skills, I'd like your input on what changes you think are good ones to reduce the number of skills in the game.

Thanks,
:AMN:
 

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Celebrim

Legend
If you're one of the majority of folks who think that the skill system in 3.5e has too many skills...

I'm actually in the minority that thinks it has too few skills. However, I think that some of the skills it has aren't coherent and that it doesn't have enough skills which are explicitly 'active' - meaning that the player can choose to use them to perform actions rather than merely as a result of a 'skill challenge' of some sort. Also, I think that 'epic skill use' was reserved for too high of a level of skill, and that by level 15 a character has skill that would in this world be considered supernatural or superhuman and hense ought to be allowed to do superhuman things.

Tumble is a good example of an 'active' skill. A player can use it in a wide variaty of situations that are likely to come up in any combat. Use Magic device is another good 'active' skill. Balance is a relatively passive skill though, since its utility (as written) depends almost solely on the DM providing balance challenges. The same is true of Appraisal. I'm not saying that balance is a bad skill, but the system needs more skills like Tumble with active uses.

IMO, the general answer to your question is this: you should bundle passive skills with active skills to make a single strong skill if you don't foresee yourself (as the DM) regularly calling for the passive skill as a challenge. If you don't want to regularly call for an appraisal check before telling the character what the item is made of and what it is worth then by all means, bundle appraisal with something else because its a pointless skill.

So, the specific answer to your question is, "Do what works for you." I don't think there is a right and wrong answer here, and while I haven't done much of the above options personally, I do think that they are mostly reasonable and for the most part wouldn't think badly of a DM that implemented any or all of them if it suited their campaign.

That said, if you were to radically reduce the size of the skill list, I think you'd risking making intelligence a dump stat.

I'd like your input on what changes you think are good ones to reduce the number of skills in the game.

Thanks,
:AMN:

Of the above, the only three I really don't approve of are 'concentration + survival' = 'endurance', because it turns every spell caster into a master of wilderness survival, 'use magic device' to anything else because UMD is a powerful class feature and not a mundane skill, and 'tumble = feats' because I very much disapprove of 'gate' feats that restrict player options until you take the feat. Pretty much anything that you right as a 'feat' that gives you some new option should be written into a skill as a skill usage instead. Feats should enhance your chance of success; they shouldn't act as shackles in disguise by implying that anyone without the feat can't attempt the stunt.

However, the only two I voted for are 'forgery = craft' and 'Gather Information = other social skills'.

Gather Information got dropped from my game very early on because it definately seemed to overlap with the other social skills. I basically said that if you want to gather information, you choose an approach (diplomacy, bluff, or intimidate) and then tried to use it to gether information. I much prefered the option to RP out such scenes rather than handwave them with a skill check.

Forgery is one I've been wrestling with for a long time. I want to drop it, but don't like the craft skills well enough. Still, anyone with sufficient craft ought to be able to forge a fake whatever in their particular craft. In fact, in many crafts making inexpensive versions of high quality goods for customers with less income is part of the normal job description. This can be true of even craftsman working for the very wealthy, because even the very wealthy can be on a budget and want to own something that appears far more ostentatious and valuable than it really is.
 

Ashtagon

Explorer
My main problem with the skills system is that it doesn't cover a broad enough field of human expertise. There are vast areas which simply have no appropriate skill defined. Sure, the skills that are defined are fine for combat uses. But I think skills should really be defining what your character does when he isn't busy killing things.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
I'm all for skill consolidation. When two different skills serve the same purpose (bluff/disguise, Hide/MS, etc.), consolidation is logical. When a skill doesn't see use (Use Rope, Appraise) it doesn't need to exist.

Climb, Jump, and Swim are all separate in my mind, as are Balance and Escape Artist (I could see dumping Tumble one way or another). Ride and Handle Animal are totally separate.

I don't see removing Gather Info; I see this used a lot. If anything, I'd add a Research (Int) like some other d20 games to complement it. Likewise, UMD is a legit skill IMO.

I would prefer a deeper language system rather than consolidating it-Kingdoms of Kalamar does this well.

My main problem with the skills system is that it doesn't cover a broad enough field of human expertise. There are vast areas which simply have no appropriate skill defined. Sure, the skills that are defined are fine for combat uses. But I think skills should really be defining what your character does when he isn't busy killing things.
I also tend to agree with this. I'm glad they standardized knowledge skills, but there are wide swaths of knowledge which are ignored. I'm sure that's just the beginning.
 

StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
Voted for perception, stealth, and disguise --> bluff. The ones involving folding a skill into a split skill, like appraise into knowledge, seem like they're just passing the buck rather than reducing the skills. Now instead of Forgery as its own skill, you just have a craft (forgery)? Or would it be like...to make a fake sword, you'd use craft weapon, except as a fake, the materials would be cheaper and DC lower? Just seems strange, maybe it'd work...

Tumble is good on its own, otherwise I din't mind acrobatics. But it's too good with tumble. Concentration also needs no help to be useful. The athletics skills...I don't know. They're situationally useful enough I hesitate to group them all in one. They're also so very disparate. I can imagine lots of good swimmers who can't climb or jump well. Jump and climb seem semi-related, maybe just package those two. They also tend to become less useful with flight later on. Swim remains useful much longer if you're near water.
 


Celebrim

Legend
I'm all for skill consolidation. When two different skills serve the same purpose (bluff/disguise, Hide/MS, etc.)

I don't see them however as serving the same purpose, though I admit that the disguise/bluff skill divide isn't as coherent as I would like. For one thing, you can roll disguise on behalf of someone else (to disguise them), but you can't really bluff on behalf of someone else. So we might imagine someone who is a great actor (bluff) who depends on a great makeup artist (disguise) to aid him in his work. In general, I believe that the divide between bluff and disguise ought to be mental/physical. You use diguise in all physical situations of deceit and bluff in all mental/social ones. To that end, under my rules 'feint' is undertaken with a diguise check - not a bluff check - in that a 'fient' is a physical motion you are trying to sell, not a verbal claim.

I've wrestled back and forth over whether 'Forgery' ought to be bundled in with disguise because it is a physical deception or with 'Craft' because it the product of craftsmanship. I've at the moment landed on craft, where crafting a forged document involves Craft (Caligraphy) or making a fake necklace involves Craft (Jewelry). An argument can be made though that 'Forgery' ought to be a modifier to your craft check, made with disguise - representing particular skill at deceptive craft. However, that awaits a more robust set of craft rules that I've never gotten around to making.

consolidation is logical. When a skill doesn't see use (Use Rope, Appraise) it doesn't need to exist.

Use Rope is the edge case here because its so narrow, but whether 'Appraise' gets used is entirely a matter of DM preference. Arguably for most campaigns 'Appraise' ought to be used all the time. For example, I'm not sure how you would know a masterwork sword from a regular sword (and thus be able to even buy one) unless you could appraise it.

Climb, Jump, and Swim are all separate in my mind, as are Balance and Escape Artist (I could see dumping Tumble one way or another). Ride and Handle Animal are totally separate.

All opinions though. The main thing is that however you divide the skills makes sense for how often they would be used in your campaign.

I don't see removing Gather Info; I see this used a lot.

Whereas, I don't see it used at all, but could imagine it being used if the DM had a certain sort of style (namely, that he liked handwaving interaction with minor offstage NPCs).

If anything, I'd add a Research (Int) like some other d20 games to complement it.

I think Research is a legitimate skill, but the problem I have with it is that in my campaign large libraries are so relatively rare that I can't imagine Research being any more useful than Use Rope. In a campaign where libraries and such are common and accessible to the public, then I can definately see adding Research in as an option. For my part, the utility of breaking it out into a separate skill doesn't seem to be there, so I keep it bundled with 'Knowledge' (that is to say, you roll a check against your own knowledge of the subject to research it in a library).

I also tend to agree with this. I'm glad they standardized knowledge skills, but there are wide swaths of knowledge which are ignored. I'm sure that's just the beginning.

Conversely, I've actually consolidated knowledge skills into extremely broad catagories because I thought there were too many of them. The problem you run into with highly specialized knowledge is that if you try to make a skill for every legitimate speciality, you quickly run into the problem you have in GURPS (or Chaosium CoC using all the introduced skills) where skills or so narrow that the end result is everyone is incompotent at most everything. In GURPS they try to solve this with a system of complex defaults from similar skills, but this just gets to be really confusing and clunky.

The available fields of study in Knowledge for my campaign are:

Arcana – magic, the physical world, magical creatures, and the supernatural
Architecture and Engineering – buildings, construction, machinery, and technology
Arts and Literature – artists, criticism, folk lore, poety, and romance
Computation and Ledgers – accounting, finance, logistics, and mathimatics
Customs and Heraldy – culture, etiquette, manners, living rulers and the nobility
Geology and Mining – excavation, geology, hydrology, and minerals
History and Geography – events, people, and places
Law – legal theory and practice
Nature – animals, plants, meteorology, and oceanology
The Planes – realms beyond our own
Religion and Philosophy – cults, deities, myths, organized religion, and theology
Riddles and Enigmas – games and puzzles
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
I don't see them however as serving the same purpose, though I admit that the disguise/bluff skill divide isn't as coherent as I would like.
I agree the fundamental divide seems to be between physical disguise and acting. If so, I'd propose making Disguise a Craft skill and moving the accompanying deception to Bluff.

whether 'Appraise' gets used is entirely a matter of DM preference...
Whereas, I don't see [Gather Info] used at all, but could imagine it being used if the DM had a certain sort of style (namely, that he liked handwaving interaction with minor offstage NPCs).
Appraise is something I don't use hardly at all; I figure the IMO/IME is implied for these types of posts. In both cases, I'm assuming a style. I want my D&D game to be about getting the loot, not selling it, and about using the information, not gathering it. Thus, I see Appraise as unnecessary (fold into Profession or a Knowledge [Math] type skill) and Gather Info as necessary (to avoid dragging down the action with minor NPC conversations).

Similarly, I find Jump, Climb, and Swim conducive to action (especially in my seafaring campaign) and want them kept separate because they're important to me. Obviously, YMMV.

I think Research is a legitimate skill, but the problem I have with it is that in my campaign large libraries are so relatively rare that I can't imagine Research being any more useful than Use Rope.
I agree. I'd rather have skills be generic. If there are no libraries, no one takes Research (just as if you are running a desertbound game, no one takes Swim). But have the skill exist in case it's needed (I've run games where it was and games where it wasn't).

In GURPS they try to solve this with a system of complex defaults from similar skills, but this just gets to be really confusing and clunky.
The Cortex system (and others I'm sure) have a really nice way of handling this: trees. The first few points in a skill (any skill) are generic, and go into a standardized category. At higher levels, you have to pick more and more specialized versions of the skill and can pretty much invent them as you go. The equivalent would be a D&D cleric who has some general knowledge of religon, but a lot of knowledge of *his* religion or a rogue with Knowledge (Local) covering his city but special expertise in the black market/underground. I would like to have this sort of thing in D&D for Knowledge skills but haven't figured out the right implementation yet. Certainly others have tried.
 

ValhallaGH

First Post
That said, if you were to radically reduce the size of the skill list, I think you'd risking making intelligence a dump stat.
I keep hearing this concern. Yet, as long as there are at least 15 'good' skills, no PC race and class character can possibly have them all maxed out. And I don't see an issue with a brilliant Fighter being able to have about half of the 'good' skills, or a smart Rogue being able to have most of them. If Indiana Jones has taught us anything, a successful adventurer needs a wide variety of skills (and don't look at the divine artifacts being opened).
Any ability score with a +1 or higher is not a dump stat. +0 isn't a dump stat by my standards, but I'll grant that tastes vary.

By 'good' I mean skills that come up about once a session (or more) and who's success either advances the PC's plans meaningfully or makes survival / success much more likely. Tumble, Use Magic Device, Hide / Move Silently, Climb, Jump, Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Disable Device, and Search all fall into this category, since they can dramatically improve the PC's situation when used with some planning or creativity.
Balance, Spot / Listen, Knowledge (any), and Perform seem to come up a lot but are fairly reactive and don't (usually) have much of a direct impact.
 

Eldritch_Lord

Adventurer
The way I generally handle skill consolidation in my games is twofold: multiple ability associations and a Background skill.

Take the Bluff/Disguise example, for instance. In my system, those are both a part of the Deception skill, along with Intimidate and Sleight of Hand, but you use your Cha modifier for social Deception checks (Bluff/Intimidate) and your Dex modifier for physical Deception checks (Disguise/Sleight of Hand/feinting). Of course, I've made more extensive changes than just rolling four skills together--just rolling those four skills into one and using the relevant ability for subskills would give waaay too much weight to one skill--but the concept, I believe, is sound.

To solve the whole knowledge base issue, I've created a Background skill which is at its most basic level Knowledge + Craft + Profession rolled into one skill. Let's say you take Background (Blacksmith). You can use those ranks for a lot of Knowledge checks relating to blacksmithing (the equivalent of Knowledge (Metallurgy) to determine the composition of various iron alloys, Knowledge (Architecture) for statues/doors/etc. made of iron, and so on), a lot of Craft checks (the equivalent of Craft (Weaponsmithing) and the like for crafting items a blacksmith usually makes), and basic Profession (Smith) checks for the miscellaneous "a smith would be able to do/know this" stuff.

It gives you the benefits of all three skills in one in exchange for applying only to a very specialized subset of them; you could have a Background of a priest of one particular religion and know a lot about that one, but someone with Knowledge (Religions) would know more about all religions in general, at the cost of having to sink ranks into Profession or Craft if they want to perform rituals or make holy items. You want to be good with numbers and money? Background (Accountant) or (Bursar) works, or (Merchant) in a pinch. You want to be an expert on the nobility and history? Background (Squire) or (Herald) or similar works. And so on and so forth; if you want to cover an area of expertise that a knowledge skill doesn't really cover, pick an appropriate Background and we'll work out the details.
 

There are a couple of interesting items in Spycraft 2 that might be helpful in reducing the skill list. The first is the way that Spycraft handles the knowledge skills.

In Spycraft 2, there are no knowledge skills. Any character can make a knowledge check (which becomes a level check) for things that his race/class might be able to know about. That's 10 or so skill off of the list, right there.

Also in Spycraft 2, there is a mechanic called Interests (which I haven't looked at in some time, so I'm not entirely sure how it works)... But the gist of it is that each character chooses some number of interests, things that the character is in to that are not directly related to the adventuring life (in this case, the spy business). You could use this mechanic in a way similar to the knowledge checks to handle Craft and Profession type skills. That's another couple of dozen skills off of the list.

Alternatively, you might consider starting with the relatively smaller skill list of 4th edition, and expanding the list from there.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I keep hearing this concern. Yet, as long as there are at least 15 'good' skills, no PC race and class character can possibly have them all maxed out.

Ok, some definitions:

'Dump Stat': Any stat which for a particular class can be safely set at 8 or lower without significantly effecting the utility of the character, and conversely which offers comparitively little reward to the player of the character who invests in it.

If Indiana Jones has taught us anything, a successful adventurer needs a wide variety of skills...

Sure, but Indiana is largely a 'solo' adventurer. At most, he employs retainers as sidekicks, but clearly he is the only PC in the story. Most RPGs however involve a party with several individuals in it. The question then becomes, "Can I safely avoid having skill in this area and rely on PC X's skill?"

The answer in many cases is, "Yes."

So the second question is, "I would like to be skillful at everything, but I'd also like an extra hitpoint each level, so how many skills are more essential to my character than say extra hit points?"

The answer in many cases is, "Not that many."

The result is that even with the RAW, intelligence is treated as a dump stat by many players that don't require it for their character's spellcasting.

By 'good' I mean skills that come up about once a session (or more) and who's success either advances the PC's plans meaningfully or makes survival / success much more likely.

Tumble - Generally useful, but if its not on your class skill list, its not worth the investment and you find some other way of dealing with the problem. Feats like Mobility or Spring Attack can help here, as can simply having a good AC and alot of hitpoints.
Use Magic Device - The best skill in the game, but not that useful if you already can cast spells, and generally inaccessible anyway.
Hide / Move Silently - Party can get by with one member having it, particular because its only really useful at the next level if all members have it and don't wear heavy armor and that it can be easily outclassed by low level spells like invisibility.
Climb - Party can get by with only one member having it, particularly because its easily outclassed by magical flight in an emergency. Only one member of the party needs more climb than is necessary to climb a knotted rope.
Jump - Generally not that useful, particularly because its easily outclassed by magical flight when it might be useful.
Bluff - Party can easily get by with only one member having it.
Diplomacy - Party can easily get by with only one member having it.
Intimidate - Party can easily get by with only one member having it. And generally speaking, party can get by with just one of the triad of social skills: bluff, intimidate, and diplomacy. Intimidate is generally speaking the least useful, as the others can generally do its job if you have enough ranks and are useful in a broader set of situations.
Disable Device - Party can easily get by with only one member having it.
Search - Generally useful, but if its not on your class skill list, its a completely wasted investment.

If I'm building a Fighter, Cleric, or Wizard (3 of the 4 archetypes), none of the above is essential to my build provided someone in the party has them.

Balance, Spot / Listen, Knowledge (any), and Perform seem to come up a lot but are fairly reactive and don't (usually) have much of a direct impact.

Balance, spot, and listen are nice to have for everyone, and everyone would like to have them on their skill list if they could. However, the availability of flight magic mitigates the need for balance in emergencies, and most classes are already used to getting by with no spot/listen. Feats can make up for missing spot/listen to a large degree (combat reflexes, improved initiative, etc.).

Knowledge is only needed by one member of the party.

So, so far your whole list only produces one consolitidated skill most builds will want - 'Perception'. I can get by therefore from your list with just 1 skill rank per level and not be losing that much utility. Conversely, even if I had 5 or 6 skill ranks per level, I'd not be adding that much to the party since much of my expertise would likely be redundant.

Spellcasters have a 'tax' on their skills in that they pretty much require Spellcraft and Concentration, but even that means that they can get by with 3 skill ranks per level.

This means that most players will minimize the amount of intelligence that they take unless they are playing a Wizard, because the extra skill points won't be worth the tradeoff of lower Will save, fewer hit points, less damage, less bonus to the skills that matter (wis, dex or chr based ones), lower AC, worse initiative, etc.

If you only have 15 skills, a human rogue can cover 9 of the 15 with a 10 INT (and 8 of 15 with an 8 INT). It's highly unlikely that the missing six (or 7) will all impact his character in a significant way. Plus, there are some (like Balance or Climb, assuming you didn't fold it into Atheletics) where most usual challenges only require a handful of points to successfully negotiate them, and after that you can spend the points elsewhere. For example, he can dump Know by depending on the Wizard to take it, or Diplomacy by depending on the cleric to take it, or dump Craft by just assuming it won't come up that much, and not knowing not knowing any of those doesn't impact him that much. It's IMO unlikely that with only 15 skills anyone but the wizard would need more than 10 INT, and certainly if none took more than 10 INT or a few took less, it wouldn't very materially impact the party. I believe that this would consistute 'Intelligence is a dump stat'.
 

ValhallaGH

First Post
So, so far your whole list only produces one consolitidated skill most builds will want - 'Perception'.
Also the spells Flight and (possibly) Invisibility. Which are class features of 1.5 of the four archetypes. Which means that your version requires a 1 rank per level (Perception) and a Wizard.
Which really just illustrates how magic, as written, makes skills totally pointless, and negates the concept of skill-based classes. Further turning INT into the dump stat for non-Wizards and those that don't need it for feat prerequisites.

So, now I'm curious how you solve this problem. How do you keep Int from being a dump stat? (All the skills I listed are on the 3.5 SRD skill list, are regarded / are the strongest skills, and you tore most of them apart as useless / replaced by magic / need one guy to cover it.)
I'm genuinely curious. Expanded skill lists simply discourage players from investing in skills at all, since they can't have a meaningful number of them and so see no point in wasting time or effort trying, in my observation. So how, besides banning Wizards, can you make prevent INT from being a dump stat for the vast majority of characters?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Also the spells Flight and (possibly) Invisibility. Which are class features of 1.5 of the four archetypes. Which means that your version requires a 1 rank per level (Perception) and a Wizard.
Which really just illustrates how magic, as written, makes skills totally pointless, and negates the concept of skill-based classes. Further turning INT into the dump stat for non-Wizards and those that don't need it for feat prerequisites.

Among other problems with the game as written, yes.

So, now I'm curious how you solve this problem. How do you keep Int from being a dump stat?

That's a question that I'm not fully prepared to answer in someone else's thread, but that is the heart of the problem.

A full answer has several components: by limiting the ability of magic to replace skills, by giving more skills an in combat role, by giving more reason to be invested in intelligence (better intelligence based feats, beater intelligence based skills), and most of all by making skills better able to compete with magic at high levels.

Let me focus on the latter one, because its the only one that is topic relevant. I've alluded to some of the changes required ('epic uses of the skill become available before epic levels'), but the other thing that is required beyond just making skills more powerful is to add more skills which are desirable. Oddly, if you look at the skill design in 3.X, what you discover is that the designers were more worried about skills stepping on the toes of spellcasters, than they were about spell use stepping on the toes of skill users. This is the one area of problems with 1E/2E where the designers didn't seem to overcompensate and instead seemed to do mostly nothing.

Just consolidating skills simply reduces the number of skills you want and in and of itself doesn't help much. Skills still remain relatively unattractive - nice to have if you got them, but not something to sacrifice something else to obtain. What you really want is more skill choices so that being skillful is really cool.

To give you an idea what that is like, consider a skill like Tactics.

A fighter examing his skill list sees something like Tactics and he thinks to himself, "Hmmm..."

"I can form a shield wall with the cleric and we both not only improve our AC, but get evasion. That sounds cool."
"You mean to to tell me that if I'm standing behind a pillar or a boulder or other suitable cover I can qualify for Improved Evasion? Wow."
"I can use this to buff the Initiative score of everyone in the party? That's insane!?!?!"
"So, I can use this skill to save vs. being surprised? Really, you're kidding, right?"
"I can use this to get the DM to tell me whether that nasty looking Frost Giant has Combat Reflexes so I'll know whether its safe to charge, or whether the Bugbear I'm fighting is using a Reckless fighting stance so that I'll know when to drop the hammer on Power Attack? That could be really helpful."
"You mean I can 'Aid Other' in combat from 30' away AS A FREE ACTION? Who designed this broken skill. With a high enough bonus its like having unlimited minor spellcasting ability in every combat?"

Would you consider sacrificing a bit for that? (And that's just part of what you can do with it.) Maybe. Would it be worth playing a high int fighter to maximize Tactical use? Maybe not enough to justify an 18 Int over an 18 Str, but certainly it could be worth something.

And then he looks down and he sees, "Leadership", and it's nearly as cool. And then he looks and sees he has "Running" as a class skill, and he's like, "You mean I can potentially fast move like a Barbarian?" And on top of that there are basic atheletic skills like Climb, Jump, Ride, Swim, and Porter that you might not need max ranks in but that are worth having a few points each in to let you overcome ordinary challenges, and there are some cross-class skills like Spot, Listen, Sense Motive and Balance that are generally useful and worth figuring out some way to bump up (either by taking a feat to add them to your class skill list, or cross-classing if you have the points, or multiclassing into a 'skill' class to dip in the skills). And on top of that there are alot of really cool skills that aren't normally associated with Fighter but which could be darn useful.

And in short, you try to make the concept of playing a skillful fighter sounds attractive enough that you might want to do it. At the very least, you can think about doing 1 less point of damage to pick up max ranks in Tactics, or one less h.p. per level to pick up max ranks in Leadership or Running. And you do it by trying to let fighters do all the sort of things that you would expect fighters to be trained at doing - running, carrying things, acting intelligently on a battlefield, being a leadership presence in combat.

Expanded skill lists simply discourage players from investing in skills at all, since they can't have a meaningful number of them and so see no point in wasting time or effort trying, in my observation.

Because 3.X and to even greater degree 4e looks at skills entirely wrong. They focus on skills as something that you do in response to a DM created challenge ('The floor is slippery, make a balance check' or 'There are some runes here, make a 'Decipher Script' check....) to the extent that in 4e they have something called a 'Skill Challenge' as a core mechanic: "Hey guys, we are having a Skill Challenge. Time to make those otherwise useless skills you have useful!"

That's totally the wrong way to look at skills, and if you head down that path you end up where Chaosium 'Call of Cthulhu' got itself where you have this huge skill list but realistically only a tiny number of them actually show up and when a rare one shows up as a skill challenge you are screwed. Only, it's worse because at least in CoC, the XP system supported everyone learning everything through experience.

Instead, skills should let you do something and the more skills you have the more things you can realistically do. In that case, it doesn't matter that you can't do everything, the fact is that more skillful you are the more you can do. It's would be like complaining that spells are useful because no one can reasonably know all of them. No, of course not, that would be silly. However, knowing more spells is obviously better than knowing fewer because you can do things with them. The same should apply to skills.

There are very few skills that are really where I would like them to be in terms of power level in 3.X.

So, in short, I think you can consolidate the skill list in some places, but unless you open it back up with more options you aren't getting anywhere useful.

The main reason I see to consolidate the skill list is that if you expand it alot, you need to bump the number of skill points per level to allow you to take the cool new stuff and some of the old stuff and that also runs the risk of turning Int into a dump stat ("I'll take the cool new stuff and dump the old stuff as before."). That part I'd like more play testing on, because I'm undecided over addressing this with consolidation, by not increasing skill points but doubling the skill points earned by an int bonus, or whether its fine to just bump skill points up by 1-2 per class level without consolidation.
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
UMD should definitely remain separate, imho.

Also, I'm always tempted to fold super specialized skills that refer to a particular activity (eg, Open Lock or Use Rope) into relevant Profession or Craft skills. I like the idea that what a character can do well-- beyond his physical, perceptual and social capabilities-- is largely tied to his "day job", upbringing and hobbies (Craft, Profession, Perform, Knowledge). Unfortunately, DnD's skill system doesn't model skills terribly well.
 

CAFargo

First Post
New Skills-Look to 4.0

I think that 4.0 has a pretty great list of skills, and I'm all for grouping the acrobatic and athletic skills. I can never decide whether I should swim, climb, or jump, and as such slap my hand to my head 2/3 of the time.

Appraise and Gather Information are similar, one for object info, the other for societal...still, I would simply get rid of both.

Knowledge skills are so restrictive and unrealistic: who only researches one thing? I think that the knowledge categories should be the knowledge checks you can make by class, but ranks put into one knowledge class skill should poor over into all the other knowledge class skills.
 

Sammael

Adventurer
I voted, but I also figured I'd give you a rundown of how I've merged the skills (it took me a while, but I am now pretty satisfied with the list, as are the players in my 2 playtest campaigns):

Appraise -> application of Crafting or one of the Lore skills
Balance -> Acrobatics
Bluff -> Deception
Climb -> Acrobatics
Concentration -> Resolve
Craft -> Crafting
Decipher Script -> Linguistics
Diplomacy -> Persuasion
Disable Device -> Tinkering (or Survival, for natural traps)
Disguise -> Deception
Escape Artist -> Deftness
Forgery -> Linguistics
Gather Information -> Streetwise
Handle Animal -> Earthlore
Heal -> Healing
Hide -> Stealth
Intimidate -> Intimidation
Jump -> Athletics
Knowledge (arcana) -> Arcana
Knowledge (architecture and engineering) -> Crafting or Tinkering
Knowledge (dungeoneering) -> Delving
Knowledge (geography) -> Earthlore or Streetwise
Knowledge (local) -> Streetwise
Knowledge (history) -> Heraldry or Warcraft
Knowledge (nature) -> Earthlore
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) -> Heraldry
Knowledge (the planes) -> Netherlore
Knowledge (religion) -> Theology
Listen -> Perception
Move Silently -> Stealth
Open Lock -> Tinkering
Perform -> Expression
Profession -> gone (turned into a feat)
Ride -> Athletics
Search -> Perception
Sense Motive -> Insight
Sleight of Hand -> Deftness
Speak Language -> Linguistics
Spellcraft -> Arcana
Spot -> Perception
Survival
Swim -> Athletics
Tumble -> Acrobatics (and feats)
Use Magic Device -> gone (would likely be folded into Arcana)
Use Rope -> Deftness

My final list looks like this:

Adventuring Skills:
Crafting
Deftness
Delving
Healing
Perception
Survival
Tinkering

Lore skills:
Arcana
Earthlore
Heraldry
Linguistics
Netherlore
Theology
Warcraft

Physical skills:
Acrobatics
Athletics
Brawl
Endurance
Marksmanship
Melee
Stealth

Social skills:
Deception
Expression
Insight
Intimidation
Persuasion
Resolve
Streetwise

(Brawl, Marksmanship, and Melee replace BAB; Endurance replaces Fort save among other things; Resolve replaces Will save; Acrobatics replaces Ref save)
 

CAFargo

First Post
(Brawl, Marksmanship, and Melee replace BAB; Endurance replaces Fort save among other things; Resolve replaces Will save; Acrobatics replaces Ref save)

As much as I love the skill system, I think that the skill system is so cool because it is so unique...making it like all of the other pieces is just so...uncool...

In addition, as a math student, I should know that the BAB and save tracks are lower than skill tracks, so your unbalancing your game in this way (this is probably why the player's like it so much!)
 

Sammael

Adventurer
As much as I love the skill system, I think that the skill system is so cool because it is so unique...making it like all of the other pieces is just so...uncool...

In addition, as a math student, I should know that the BAB and save tracks are lower than skill tracks, so your unbalancing your game in this way (this is probably why the player's like it so much!)
D&D is actually one of the very few games where combat skills are separate from other skills. It's a bit odd that 2e thief skills were folded into skills together with 2e nonweapon proficiencies in 3e, whereas BAB (formerly THAC0) remained separate.

My system is a complete overhaul of the skill system, and the progression is slower than in the official rules. Your base bonus (level/2) applies to all skills; you get skill points every odd level, and your base bonus + ranks cannot exceed your level. Thus, at best, a character's ranks in Melee will be equal to his level - just like BAB. Coupled with reduced racial bonuses, greatly trimmed list of different bonus types, +2 cap on equipment bonuses, and so on, the total bonuses are a lot lower than they were in 3.5, making the progression curve a lot flatter. No more bards with +20 to Diplomacy at 3rd level, for instance.

Believe me, the players love it for different reasons (e.g. the fact that every class receives the same number of skill points and they can do more with them thanks to consolidated skills), not because it allows them to powergame better. The system was rebuilt after 6-7 years of careful observation, tweaking, and lots and lots of houseruling (and reading of other people's experiences and house rules).

EDIT: Anyways, this is not the right thread to discuss the merits of my system... since I provided my entire revised skill list, I merely wanted to explain the purpose of certain skills. I'd be more than happy to elaborate on my system in a separate thread (which already exists somewhere in the depths of this forum).
 
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(Brawl, Marksmanship, and Melee replace BAB; Endurance replaces Fort save among other things; Resolve replaces Will save; Acrobatics replaces Ref save)

I like this idea. I thought of doing something similar with the first three, but the others sound interesting to. I wish 3e had went this route from the beginning.
 

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