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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


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.

I don't. I came back to D20 from GURPS after getting tired of systems trying to express everything in terms of skills.

There is no perfect set of rules. There is only a ruleset that is good for what you are trying to achieve. Having combat as a skill achieves one thing and is suited for certain styles. Siloing it off as a restricted ability achieves another and is suited for other styles. Before I'd move combat attributes into skills, I'd have to first decide to play a game where the ability to swing a sword was no more important (and maybe even less important) than any other skill.

Sammael's design has a certain elegance and he does a good job picking his skill set both in breadth, size, and balance, but I'm not convinced I need it for any game I envision. Though, based on the skill he shows in crafting the skill set, I'd be interested in sitting in on the game he wants to run.

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Though, based on the skill he shows in crafting the skill set, I'd be interested in sitting in on the game he wants to run.
Thank you for the compliment! If you're ever in Belgrade, Serbia, drop me a message and I'm sure a game can be arranged.


First Post
Latecomer to the thread, but I thought I'd add my two cents. I voted for Acrobatics, Craft/Forgery, Decipher Script, Perception, and Stealth (you did intend to fold MS into that, right?).

When I did Project Phoenix, it started out as a simple overhaul of the skill system, then got out of hand. I had already revised several skills in past years (Craft, Spot, and a couple others); when I redid them for the new system, I went over them again.

Long story short, here's what I've got now (or you can look here for more details).

Acrobatics (same as yours)
Appraise (stole some things from PF)
Bluff (uses a unified social skill system)
Craft (overhauled)
Decipher Script (uses a unified system with Speak Language)
Diplomacy (uses a unified social skill system)
Disable Device (includes Open Lock)
Gather Information (overhauled)
Handle Animal
Intimidate (uses a unified social skill system)
Knowledge (overhauled)
Perception (Listen/Spot)
Sense Motive
Sleight of Hand
Speak Language (uses a unified system with Deciper Script)
Stealth (Hide/MS)

While it's fairly common to combine the athletic skills (Climb, Jump, Swim), I just couldn't justify it - they're different enough that each has its place in a skillset. Same with Ride and Handle Animal, though having ranks in HA would certainly add a bonus to Ride (I don't think it does in 3.5; I can't be bothered to look).

Oh yeah: if you're going to condense the skill list, you'll have to take a good look at how many skill points everyone gets - rogues especially. If you get rid of several of their skills but keep 8+Int, they'll be godlike. I divided the number of class skills by 3 (minimum 4 + Int) to get a relatively balanced number of skill points.
Last edited:

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
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).
@Sammael: Could you link to the thread you're referring to in this quote, or throw out a couple keywords (besides 'sammael' and 'skills' ;) ) to google on? I'm interested in reading a bit more about your skill system, but can't find a thread with your name on it that's obviously the one you're referring too. Thanks.


First Post
Personally, I'm just using the pathfinder still system at the moment. It actually has a lot of the ideas that you've already listed here and now all the skills actually feel useful.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that spellcraft and concentration were combined together. That kinda messes up any prestige classes that used concentration for special purposes.

Those Brawl, Marksmanship, and Melee ideas are interesting btw. Just because a person is good at melee doesn't mean he's good at Marksmanship (and so on). It makes characters a lot more specialized.


First Post
One way to do it is to simply get rid of skills altogether, and replace them with ability checks. Sure, the players would still get skill points, but they would be put into only six skills:
Strength-->heavy lifting, anything that requires strength...
Constitution-->prolonged lifting, anything that takes a while to do...
Dexterity-->anything that requires fine-motor skills or timed movements...
Intelligence-->anything that requires you to recall information or figure out a puzzle (possible open lock or disable device)...
Wisdom-->anything that requires you to quickly make a decision (not much) or anything that doesn't fit into another category (e.g. use magic device)
Charisma-->social skills...duh

Classes with 2+int skill points/level now only get their int, 4+int becomes 1+int, 6+int becomes 2+int, and 8+int becomes 3+int.

Classes would have to put ranks into ability "skill-bonuses", which would then be used ONLY for skill checks (leaving everything else nice and balanced)


First Post
I was talking to one of my players, and he said that instead of reducing the skill list, each class should instead just get more skill points. For example, +2 skill points allows a fighter to take jump, climb, swim, and balance without having any int bonus (what type of fighter needs to think?), and makes it more likely that a wizard will know something about a subject thanks to +2 knowledge skills.

This system also discourages the making of rogues who are smarter that wizards, and allows a mediocre roll to be put in int while good rolls are put into dex, con, and str, probably in that order. This makes the rogue a far more viable class to play, surely beating the rogue with low hp and AC.


I was talking to one of my players, and he said that instead of reducing the skill list, each class should instead just get more skill points.

I've historically given more skill points (but I've also got a bigger skill list).

Lately though I've been wrestling with an idea for a more dramatic change.

Instead of giving more skill points, I'm considering giving 2 skill points per level per point of intelligence bonus.

Right now the options I have before me are.

1) Give every class 1-3 more skill points per level (what I've done before). I'm afraid though that as base skill points go up, the temptation to dump stat int is increased. Intelligence is irrelevant for most builds except for skill points. I fear making it utterly irrelevant.
2) Give every class about the same skill points (or 1 more), but also give 2 skill points per intelligence bonus. There are some complexities and risks here too. Maybe I'd make intelligence too good so that everyone would feel compelled to take it.(?) The rules would also become more complicated because I don't want to double penalize players with low int. Worse, I couldn't just reduce skill points significantly because then I'd be forcing the high intelligence route. So a human rogue with 18 INT would under this model get at least 17 skill points per level, which is sufficient to be pretty much skillful at everything. Is that too much? Isn't kinda boring to be good at everything? Or maybe rogues will feel less compelled to take 18 INT, but instead be happy with 14 or so, in which case, is that good?
3) Make the 2 skill points per level of int bonus be a class feature of a few select classes (like rogue). All the problems of the above, except it solves the rules complexity issue and becomes a nice balance tool for skill classes.


First Post
Lately though I've been wrestling with an idea for a more dramatic change.
One option that I've been considering is to divorce skill points from Int, leaving intelligence useful for skill bonuses, prerequisites, appropriate checks, casting some spells, and getting freebie in-character knowledge because your character is smart enough to think of more things than other folks do.
As for skills per level, I'd renumber each class based upon a) minimum skills needed to do their jobs, b) number of additional skills needed to be a moderately rounded adventurer, c) size of the total skill list. (a) and (c) would be the principal factors in determining the new values, and I haven't figured out what those are yet, but something like Rogues can get 1/3 of the total skills, Wizards can get about 1/2 of the knowledge and magic skills, Fighters can get most of the athletic skills, etc. seems like the guidelines I'd end up following.

The people I game with are generally mature enough to put appropriate stats into their mental scores for the character they're trying to play. Further, the skill bonuses and free knowledge should provide sufficient incentive to keep INT as a useful stat for most characters.

Something I'm seriously considering and thought I'd mention for others to think about.

I voted for the following:

Balance, Escape Artist, Tumble → Acrobatics (new skill)
Climb, Jump, Swim → Athletics (new skill)
Disguise → Bluff
Listen, Spot → Perception
Hide → Stealth (although I think this one should include Move Silently, which was probably an oversight)


I voted for the following:

Balance, Escape Artist, Tumble → Acrobatics (new skill)
Climb, Jump, Swim → Athletics (new skill)
Disguise → Bluff
Listen, Spot → Perception
Hide → Stealth (although I think this one should include Move Silently, which was probably an oversight)

The big problem I have with combining skills like this is it that it forces you to make many modifiers conditional.

For example, an ooze or something that acquires ooze like traits you gain a large bonus on escape artist checks. If I combine balance, escape artist, and tumble into a single acrobatics skill, I then have to write alot of things like, "Oozes have a +50 bonus on acrobatics, when using a acrobatics to escape or squeeze." And the even bigger problem here is the modifier is now conditional, which means that instead of writing it down and being able to forget about it, I or the player have to look up the base acrobatics skill check, then remember that there is a conditional modifier, look up the conditional modifier, and then perform the addition.

The result is that the attempt to simplify the skill system has led to being actually being more complicated in play, which is the very time you don't want to have extra complexity.

This is one of the reasons I resist combining skills where modifiers to special usages of the skill would be common. If modifiers to a particular usage of the skill would be common, I'm very likely to want to keep it as a separate skill. It's kind of unavoidable that there will be conditional modifiers (otherwise, you end up with alot of skills that are too narrow), but I don't want to create them when I don't have to.


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

I REALLY like this idea. I had come up with a somewhat more cumbersome related idea at one point (basically letting one of Knowledge/Craft/Profession be used for similar other skills at various penalties), but this is a lot simpler. YOINK

As part of my (overcomplicated) idea, I'd also be liberal about overlap; if you have Profession (sailor), fine, use it for Use Rope.

As for the poll, I mostly like the changes Pathfinder introduces, though I always found it odd they rolled up so many skills but left Climb and Swim out. I'd personally have Athletics be Climb/Swim(/Fly, in PF) and then Acrobatics be Tumble/Balance/Jump

I'd make a lot of changes, but I think I'd have Appraise fall under many skills; a subset of craft, or knowledge, or... depending. (Maybe I'm weird, but appraise rarely comes up in games I've run/been in)


First Post
As for conditional modifiers, I don't think it's that big a deal, myself. A lot of the modifiers for monsters are already conditional, like
'Lions have a +4 racial bonus on Balance, Hide, and Move Silently checks. *In areas of tall grass or heavy undergrowth, the Hide bonus improves to +12. '

So, 'thri-kreen have a +30 racial bonus to jump' becomes 'thri-kreen have a +30 racial bonus to Acrobatics (jump)'

There are upsides to this, however... with a skill like Perception, you can more easily handle things like 'Uh, I want to use my Scent to figure out whose outfit this is... what... what do I roll?'


First Post
Take a look at the Star Wars Saga rules regarding skills. They've done a lot of consolidating and they present it in a logical format.

The biggest problems with 3.5 skills isn't so much the list as the mechanics.

1) Skill check vs. anything else is broken. Skills should be opposed by skills and they should be opposed by a person not a flat DC.
--Diplomacy. Flat DCs don't take into account the insight, experience or relationship with the person you're trying to diplomacize.
--Intimidate. Opposed by a level check, the level check will fail nearly every time.
--Sleight of Hand. There is no mechanic for actually stopping the theft, only noticing it. Broken.

2) Knowledge skills provide no tangible benefits. They should be able to provide at the least a +1 or 2 circumstance bonus against something.

3) The rank system. After level 5, you're going to be acing just about every skill check unless its an opposed check. The DCs should be based on the difficulty relative to the person making the check. Something that is of average difficulty for a 10th level character would be pretty easy for a 20th level, while something easy for them would be nearly impossible for a 1st level character.

4) Since rogues are skill monkeys, even with a consolidated list you're going to have to either give them a lot of skills or give them a bonus to the skills they do have. Or maybe consolidate skills ONLY for them. Rogues might be so good at sneaking around that for them Hide and Move Silently is a single skill (Stealth), but for everyone else, its Hide and Move Silently. Maybe rogues are so alert that Listen, Search and Spot are a single skill for them (Perception), but for everyone else (except maybe elves), its 3 different skills.

5) Have skills that actually get used in your game. Get rid of the others. Really, how often has anyone used Balance, Forgery, or Use Rope? Make Balance a part of tumble because if someone is doing flips and springing around, you've got to reasonably believe they've got enough balance to do it. Forgery? Anyone can do it. Its a lie (Bluff) on paper, good enough to pass quick visual (Spot) inspection, but for someone to closely examine it (Search), the ruse is up unless it was "professionally" done (Craft: Forgery).
Use Rope? To throw a grappling hook? Attack roll, your BAB vs. the "AC" of the wall. To tie someone up? Grapple check with a +10 bonus and the target starts off in a Pin. Tying ropes together? Int/Dex check.

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