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Expertise is RUINING THE GAME!

Xeviat

Explorer
Okay, hyperbole out of the way. I don't think it's ruining the game. I just think it's existence limits what can be done with skills.

I've been working on an expanded skill system. I'm adding a few skills, because I want to have Intelligence grant additional trained skills, and I'm granting proficiency bonus to all saves (and changing how classes give out save bonuses), but while I'm at it, I thought I could codify more of what skills can do. I don't like that cool skill actions are hidden away in the feats; many of these could be skill checks. Acrobatics check to stand up from prone quickly, athletics checks to climb faster or jump further, stealth checks to disappear when someone glances away. The skill system can be expanded to allow non-casters to do incredible things, the likes of mythological heroes.

But, bounded accuracy makes it so that skills with Expertise cannot be put up aside saving throws. Saves are Proficency+Stat, expertise is (2xProficiency)+Stat. A +17 vs. +11 is simply not fair, and that's assuming a common threat would have a +5 ability modifier on something like Wisdom if we were, say, adding a Demoralize "Intimidationg check vs. Wisdom save" mechanic.

And that got me thinking that Expertise might have not been the best way to model how experts are better at certain skills. I mean it makes perfect sense, an expert is just better, right? But if an expert in thief's tools is the only way for the party to get past a lock, then only the expert in thief's tools in the party is going to get past it.

Why can't expertise allow someone to do things faster (bonus action instead of an action)? Why can't expertise allow someone to perform routine tasks easily under pressure (take 10, or reliable talent)? Heck, expertise could allow for double proficiency bonus BUT not ability score modifier; this would allow a rogue who is an expert in athletics to not need high Strength to perform incredible feats of athleticism while not needing a high strength (that would be out of character) ... I'm really liking that idea.

Instead of just "I can hit higher numbers", I think expertise should be "I can do cooler things". Bake in a mechanic like "power attack"; take -5 to your check, but you achieve something more with a success. A regular person wouldn't do this, but an expert could. Expertise could allow for doing those sort of actions without the -5 penalty, or ignoring up to a -5 penalty.

I'm just throwing stuff out there at this point. I'm in the early black board stage. Seeing what sticks. But the more I think about it, the more I'm not liking "double proficiency bonus" in a vacuum. Advantage, maybe. Base 10, or 8, or whatever skill floor, yeah maybe. But not double proficiency bonus.

What do you think?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Higher numbers are boring, cooler things are cool. That's about all that needs to be said about that.

To port over a thought from the thread that spawned this one, I find Expertise especially difficult to deal with in intrigue heavy 3rd pillar campaigns. I would much rather deal with added effect over having to plan for a character that has +15 to his deception rolls when everyone else has +6 (numbers picked out the air, don't think look to deep there).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Out of curiosity, if you have a problem with expertise, do you also play the game such that players ask to make or declare they are making ability checks?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Out of curiosity, if you have a problem with expertise, do you also play the game such that players ask to make or declare they are making ability checks?
As opposed to the GM telling them what ability to roll?

On a separate note, I have decided to dub problems of this nature, ones where there is significant difficulty aligning massively differential stats within a party, the Glitterboy Conundrum. Trademarked.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As opposed to the GM telling them what ability to roll?
As opposed to the DM deciding whether there is a roll at all, then what ability check to make and any skill proficiency that applies (per the rules).

And in this case I'm not referring to a paradigm where the DM can decide a player-proposed roll is not necessary (e.g. Player: "Can I make an Investigation check to..." DM: "Nah, you just figure it out...").
 

FrogReaver

Explorer
Why not simply, the DM will take into account if you have expertise when determining whether you succeed and giving it an appropriate mechanical impact for the task at hand. Now you don't even have to handle it the same way everytime. Maybe sometimes it's advantage. Maybe sometimes it's a take 10. Maybe sometimes it does actually need to be double proficiency. Maybe sometimes it's being able to do it as a bonus action etc.

Why pick any one method when you can create you a toolbox and apply accordingly?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I think I see where you're going. More automatic success for the character with expertise (and reliable talent) is the opposite of what I'm looking for however. The exact problem is how often that's going to be the case for that character with that skill in an environment weighted to the party skill level and not that particular character's skill level. I'm definitely not advocating for forcing an inappropriate roll when there's no real consequence (as per the rules).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think I see where you're going. More automatic success for the character with expertise (and reliable talent) is the opposite of what I'm looking for however. The exact problem is how often that's going to be the case for that character with that skill in an environment weighted to the party skill level and not that particular character's skill level. I'm definitely not advocating for forcing an inappropriate roll when there's no real consequence (as per the rules).
I'm not really "going" anywhere, only checking to see if there's a rough correlation between people who have some kind of issue with the ability check system and playing the game in the very common way I described upthread wherein the players ask to make or declare they are making ability checks.

Without taking anything away from your perception of the problem you outline above, could you explain how that is a problem for you exactly? It sounds like you're wanting to set DCs in the abstract, which is fine for specific approaches to specific goals, like when you're writing a module, but in actual game play where the DM is judging the efficacy of the player's proposed action against the fictional situation that is unfolding, I can't see that as being much of a concern from where I'm sitting. DCs can't really be set until the player describes what he or she wants to do.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I wasn't pointing fingers. To answer your question, I generally have players declare their action, not their skill use, and then I decide roll/not then DC/ability/skill, generally as per the rules.

I'm going to try and limit this conversation to one thread or the other. As I explained in some detail in the other thread, my issues surface in 3rd pillar heavy intrigue campaigns where skills, and specific skills, are very much more front and center in driving the action of the game, and where where the party will often tend to represent those skills on multiple characters, only some of whom have access to expertise, but all of whom expect to use those skills on a regular basis. In that context, the extent to which expertise puts a finger on the scales can really dampen the enjoyment of the rest of the party.
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
Why can't expertise allow someone to do things faster (bonus action instead of an action)? Why can't expertise allow someone to perform routine tasks easily under pressure (take 10, or reliable talent)? Heck, expertise could allow for double proficiency bonus BUT not ability score modifier; this would allow a rogue who is an expert in athletics to not need high Strength to perform incredible feats of athleticism while not needing a high strength (that would be out of character) ... I'm really liking that idea.
But you can.

Remember the key rule of 5e that it is up to the DM to grant a check in the first place? You can decide to grant a check for a "premium" result only to a character who has expertise.

The only thing the game doesn't do this is exactly to codify this for you. Partly because there are so many possibilities that it would take a whole book just for that, and partly because whatever the designers' choice there would be plenty of gamers who would disagree and whine. So you have to codify it yourself.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Okay, hyperbole out of the way. I don't think it's ruining the game. I just think it's existence limits what can be done with skills.

I've been working on an expanded skill system. I'm adding a few skills, because I want to have Intelligence grant additional trained skills, and I'm granting proficiency bonus to all saves (and changing how classes give out save bonuses), but while I'm at it, I thought I could codify more of what skills can do. I don't like that cool skill actions are hidden away in the feats; many of these could be skill checks. Acrobatics check to stand up from prone quickly, athletics checks to climb faster or jump further, stealth checks to disappear when someone glances away. The skill system can be expanded to allow non-casters to do incredible things, the likes of mythological heroes.

But, bounded accuracy makes it so that skills with Expertise cannot be put up aside saving throws. Saves are Proficency+Stat, expertise is (2xProficiency)+Stat. A +17 vs. +11 is simply not fair, and that's assuming a common threat would have a +5 ability modifier on something like Wisdom if we were, say, adding a Demoralize "Intimidationg check vs. Wisdom save" mechanic.

And that got me thinking that Expertise might have not been the best way to model how experts are better at certain skills. I mean it makes perfect sense, an expert is just better, right? But if an expert in thief's tools is the only way for the party to get past a lock, then only the expert in thief's tools in the party is going to get past it.

Why can't expertise allow someone to do things faster (bonus action instead of an action)? Why can't expertise allow someone to perform routine tasks easily under pressure (take 10, or reliable talent)? Heck, expertise could allow for double proficiency bonus BUT not ability score modifier; this would allow a rogue who is an expert in athletics to not need high Strength to perform incredible feats of athleticism while not needing a high strength (that would be out of character) ... I'm really liking that idea.

Instead of just "I can hit higher numbers", I think expertise should be "I can do cooler things". Bake in a mechanic like "power attack"; take -5 to your check, but you achieve something more with a success. A regular person wouldn't do this, but an expert could. Expertise could allow for doing those sort of actions without the -5 penalty, or ignoring up to a -5 penalty.

I'm just throwing stuff out there at this point. I'm in the early black board stage. Seeing what sticks. But the more I think about it, the more I'm not liking "double proficiency bonus" in a vacuum. Advantage, maybe. Base 10, or 8, or whatever skill floor, yeah maybe. But not double proficiency bonus.

What do you think?
In 4e if you are using a skill in some significant context and want to really put extra effort into it one method is what i call a heroic exertion. Its not called that but its actually suggested in the DMG2. The heroic exertion is expending a healing surge not for healing but to pump up the volume on a skill use... Using a ritual or expending cash can accomplish much the same thing. When i revised martial practices see other thread accounting for that meant that there needed to be a better benefit to cost balance ratio so that it closer matched up with rituals. I made a skill check in a known practice reduce the cost of related actions.(just as rituals were cheaper than suggested improvised application of cash)

I guess the point being having enumerated abilities which are more efficient does not necessarily invalidate improvisation of the same thing if the improvisation has some form of cost. A cost of too much unreliability is usually not so fun. But a cost like the Heroic Exertion does the trick rather well.

Having better numbers can be seen as underpinning the other things you mention even if you do not directly use them as much when you are "paying the price"
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
On a separate note, I have decided to dub problems of this nature, ones where there is significant difficulty aligning massively differential stats within a party, the Glitterboy Conundrum. Trademarked.
Heh. The problem is at least that old, yeah.

I'm going to try and limit this conversation to one thread or the other. As I explained in some detail in the other thread, my issues surface in 3rd pillar heavy intrigue campaigns where skills, and specific skills, are very much more front and center in driving the action of the game, and where where the party will often tend to represent those skills on multiple characters, only some of whom have access to expertise, but all of whom expect to use those skills on a regular basis. In that context, the extent to which expertise puts a finger on the scales can really dampen the enjoyment of the rest of the party.
You're also just running up against D&D having relatively little to /do/ in the social pillar. There's a few relevant skills - which, without Expertise, don't really mean much in 5e - two relevant stats, prettymuch (CHA & WIS) - and, of course, as always, a variety of potentially applicable spells. If you go too social-heavy, 2/3rds your stats, most of your skills, and the lion's share of mechanics just vanish.

If you're lucky enough to know that going into it, you can all pay bards and rogues with high CHA and such, but, you start to notice, not a lot of ways to differentiate yourself. You could carefully dole out who has expertise in what skill, so they step up and deliver when that skill comes up, I suppose.

Oh, and SCs are gone, but there's still group checks.
A group check gets everyone participating, and tends not to turn on the guy with Expertise (who's contribution is likely noted only in the rare instance he fails) or the guy with a net penalty (vice versa), but on the folks making checks that could go either way.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
[MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] - yeah, that's about the size of the problem. I think the basic building blocks are there to do something richer and more interesting, but keeping it relatively light and non-invasive has proven really challenging so far.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
[MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] - yeah, that's about the size of the problem. I think the basic building blocks are there to do something richer and more interesting, but keeping it relatively light and non-invasive has proven really challenging so far.
You could lift the SC structure, but keep it behind the Screen. I've had some success with that. And it's not so visible to the players, so should feel non-invasive.

...

You can take it the other way and use concrete visual aids to keep things clear. Like who is interacting with what NPC to what purpose. This can be as abstract as each player placing a token on an index card with a location & NPC written on it, or it could be a map of a town or castle or something. You could include a leader-board tracker to show progress towards success.

...

You could adopt more sophisticated mechanics of the same stripe from the likes of Powered by the Apocalypse.
 

tglassy

Explorer
Um...I see a few things that is causing your problems.

I've been working on an expanded skill system. I'm adding a few skills, because I want to have Intelligence grant additional trained skills, and I'm granting proficiency bonus to all saves (and changing how classes give out save bonuses)
So first off, you’re adding complexity. That always causes problems. Second, a higher intelligence wouldn’t necessarily grant more skills. It could grant more proficiencies, but not necessarily skills. And there are character choices which grant more skills. If you wanna be a skill monkey, there are things to choose to do that. You can’t give everyone everything. Though it makes sense to have more tool/language proficiencies with a higher intelligence, as those are usually more intelligence related anyway.

but while I'm at it, I thought I could codify more of what skills can do. I don't like that cool skill actions are hidden away in the feats; many of these could be skill checks. Acrobatics check to stand up from prone quickly, athletics checks to climb faster or jump further, stealth checks to disappear when someone glances away. The skill system can be expanded to allow non-casters to do incredible things, the likes of mythological heroes.
Feats are the incredible things the likes of Mythological heroes could do. Skills are just skills that anyone could do, and skill checks are used if there is a chance it won’t work. There nothing stopping you from allowing a check in these cases, the feats merely allow it to happen with no additional checks. The Athlete Feat allows them to stand up with 5 ft of movement, no check needed.

Also, if you simply grant these abilities to anyone who asks, you’re basically handing out free Feats, which spits in the face of anyone who forwent another choice because they wanted a specific Feat for that ability.

But, bounded accuracy makes it so that skills with Expertise cannot be put up aside saving throws. Saves are Proficency+Stat, expertise is (2xProficiency)+Stat. A +17 vs. +11 is simply not fair, and that's assuming a common threat would have a +5 ability modifier on something like Wisdom if we were, say, adding a Demoralize "Intimidationg check vs. Wisdom save" mechanic.
I think this is your main misunderstanding. It’s not Intimidation vs Wisdom Save. It’s Intimidation vs Insight Check. Saves are against spells and attacks and the like. Skills are pitted against skills. If the target has expertise in Insight, then they can easily match someone with expertise in intimidation.

Same with Stealth. The contesting check is Perception, not a Wis save. So there’s that problem solved.

And that got me thinking that Expertise might have not been the best way to model how experts are better at certain skills. I mean it makes perfect sense, an expert is just better, right? But if an expert in thief's tools is the only way for the party to get past a lock, then only the expert in thief's tools in the party is going to get past it.
The DM decides the lock’s DC. The whole point of expertise is to do things no one else will do. It makes the DC 15 lock, which someone without expertise may find mildly difficult, into a cakewalk for the one with expertise, as it should be. A 20 DC lock would be hard for others, but only mildly so to the one with expertise. And yeah, the DC 25 lock is extremely hard for most, but not that hard for expertise. They’ll also be the only ones who can unlock a DC 30 lock, and at lvl 5, but in that case, the DM shouldn’t make a lock that high DC unless he really, really doesn’t want anyone to open it without a key.


Why can't expertise allow someone to do things faster (bonus action instead of an action)?
Making it a bonus action instead would do nothing for helping to unlock a lock, considering most people unlocking the lock will not be doing it in combat, so action economy means nothing, and arguably the Rogue’s Cunning Action could already make it a bonus action. So by doing that, you’re just nerfing the Rogue. There are other abilities that make standard actions into a bonus action, Cunning Action being the main one. If the character wants to do that, they should choose those abilities.

Why can't expertise allow someone to perform routine tasks easily under pressure (take 10, or reliable talent)?
They do. That’s literally what they do. At lvl 5, a Rogue can have a +11 on any skill they have expertise, which means they literally cannot roll less than a 12, unless they roll a 1, which for me is always a fail, though that’s a house rule. It also means that harder DC’s, such as 15, are trivial, or even 20, they are still better than 50%. At lvl 5. This is what Expertise is for.

Reliable Talent simply extends some of this to other skills that they’re proficient in but don’t have expertise. Basically, at lower levels, the Rogue can do this with a few skills. And at higher lvls, they can do it with more.


Heck, expertise could allow for double proficiency bonus BUT not ability score modifier; this would allow a rogue who is an expert in athletics to not need high Strength to perform incredible feats of athleticism while not needing a high strength (that would be out of character) ... I'm really liking that idea.
This doesn’t solve anything. Why would you erase the ability modifier? That’s literally treating the ability score as if it were a 10 or 11. Literally, a Rogue with an 11 Str would have the exact same Athletics Check as a Barbarian with the Prodigy Feat granting Expertise in Athletics, and in actuality, someone WITHOUT expertise, but a 20 in the relevant stat, would have a higher check than the one with Expertise until lvl 17. That makes 0 sense to me. You can already have a Rogue with an 8 str take expertise in Athletics and become almost as good as people who are stronger, why are you going to penalize those who are actually stronger?

When two people of equal skill come together in a test of strength, the stronger one will win, as the equal technical skill cancels each other out.

Instead of just "I can hit higher numbers", I think expertise should be "I can do cooler things". Bake in a mechanic like "power attack"; take -5 to your check, but you achieve something more with a success. A regular person wouldn't do this, but an expert could. Expertise could allow for doing those sort of actions without the -5 penalty, or ignoring up to a -5 penalty.
You’d need to explain this. They have this kind of mechanical for actual attacks, which takes a Feat, but how does this work with, say, lockpicking? Take a -5 for...what? Unlocking the lock? Quietly, which isn’t even needed? What about stealth? You hide...EVEN BETTER! It just doesn’t make sense.

Thing is, Expertise is for making checks easier to pass. Feats are meant to allow you to do cool things, usually without checks. No one character can get Expertise in everything, so there will be plenty of things that challenge them. Rogues get the most, with 4 (5 if they’re a human with the prodigy feat), but that just enhances their skill monkey usage. Expertise allows a character to shine in their very, very narrow field. It makes them important to the party. Trading expertise for what is essentially a Feat for every skill they have expertise in would either break the game, or be completely useless as the benefit is never used.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Feats are the incredible things the likes of Mythological heroes could do...

...The Athlete Feat allows them to stand up with 5 ft of movement, no check needed.
Stand up and move 25' instead of stand up and move 15' - incredible.


The whole point of expertise is to do things no one else will do.
Which is the exact opposite of the whole point of Bounded Accuracy. ::shrug::
 

Xeviat

Explorer
tglassy, I don't even know where to start commenting. Your post felt like it was talking down to me, but that's probably my own reading of it.

Feats in 5E aren't epic feats of heroic proportions. Expertise does allow for doing "nearly impossible things" better than others, but that's a DC 30 which is achievable by a 20 stat and a 5 or 6 proficiency, so it's not really something only they can do (only they can do it regularly).

Using feats or expertise to gate in actually cool stuff is what I'm suggesting. Yes, big numbers are sometimes fun, but I think reliable talent does a better job mechanically of covering the "you're better than the common person". Having a high stat and proficiency still sets someone higher than someone with an average stat and no proficiency.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I'm just throwing stuff out there at this point. I'm in the early black board stage. Seeing what sticks. But the more I think about it, the more I'm not liking "double proficiency bonus" in a vacuum. Advantage, maybe. Base 10, or 8, or whatever skill floor, yeah maybe. But not double proficiency bonus.

What do you think?
PF2 is going with skill tiers that layer on top of your proficiency bonus. So someone who is an Expert in Arcana is of a different caliber at the skill, capable of doing different things with that skill than someone who is merely Trained in Arcana. Though I think that this is a neat idea, it does force a lot of additional work to give each skill additional cool things to do at each tier, or even just its hypothetical "Expertise" tier.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Stand up and move 25' instead of stand up and move 15' - incredible.


Which is the exact opposite of the whole point of Bounded Accuracy. ::shrug::
That right there the premise is to make sure characters never actually approach awesome impossible tasks with any measure of certainty .. unless they use spells explicitly
 

jgsugden

Explorer
That right there the premise is to make sure characters never actually approach awesome impossible tasks with any measure of certainty .. unless they use spells explicitly
Why? Why can't you have a rogue that is so good at picking locks that they're the only one in the world that has a good shot to pick the Lock of X'elios without magic?

That is a good story element. That makes the heroes feel like they stand out.

The underlying belief when we say that Expertise/High skills ruins the game is that character success on most, if not all, skill checks of a certain type is inherently bad. It absolutely is not. I've had the rogue in my game that could hide from anything. I've had the silvertongued devil that coud convince someone of almost anything. I've had the barbarian that could bend things thought to be unbreakable. And it was awesome. The players enjoyed being a Herculean style of awesome, and their exploits were legendary.

If, as a DM, you're frustrated that you can't challenge players with certain things, or that they can 'too easily' do certain things... really consider why that is a problem for you. If the goal is to tell a good story, why can't you use that story element as something to celebrate and applaude? A lot of our iconic myths are about people that can do amazing things - and they're not all wizards or using magic.
 

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