D&D (2024) How would you change skills in 5.5e

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Well that's true.

The 5e skill list and system fill the purpose almost exactly what the 5e designers designed to. The purpose however is not what the majority of the customer base wants.
Heh... well, I guess your feeling comes down to what your opinion of "not what the majority of the customer base wants" means.

You are correct that a single system will not be 100% what most players want. But that is true of every single rule in the game-- every single rule will be exactly what a few players might want... but every other player would have wished for the rule to be tweaked ever so much-- a different word choice here... a little added rule bit bit there... a restriction there. No rule can or will satisfy 100% of what a player wants 100% of the time.

So the point that the skill system is not what most players want is essentially meaningless. Most players don't want the current skill system? Yeah, well...

- Most players also don't want the way currently that hit points work. They'd have the rules for that changed in a heartbeat-- with every single player wanting a completing different change from every other player.

- Most players want how races/species are defined and designed different from what we currently have, but no one could all agree what those changes should be.

- Most players think the feat system should eliminate some feats, add others, adjust the balance on even more, or completely remove the system altogether.

So on and so forth down the line.

But WotC is not here to make a set of game rules that is going to work for ALL players equally well, because that is statistically impossible. It cannot be done. The best they can do is build a foundational set of rules that work okay for most players, even if they are not preferred. And that's what every single skill system D&D has had since they started including them...

They're all... fine.

That's it. They're fine. They're not great because none of us would agree on what makes a skill system great. Instead, the system they use defines what it does, they define how it works, they make it relatively easy to use, and they represent a complete set of rules that most importantly can be changed and adjusted by each individual Dungeon Master to make it more in the manner that each DM would prefer it to be. To make it great for them.

And that's the same for every other rule in the game.

Whatever it is YOU think the skill system should be... is GREAT! For YOU! You can have the system as easy or as complex as you want. Whatever works for your table, you can have it! And that's what's great about it. The only downside being that YOU have to build it yourself-- using the foundational system that WotC gave you or completely ripping it out and installing whatever new system you have in mind. But Wizards is not about to give you the system YOU want just because you think it's the best system. Because what YOU want is just as much "not what the majority of the customer base wants" as the system currently in place. And it's foolish to think otherwise.
 

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Clint_L

Legend
Well that's true.

The 5e skill list and system fill the purpose almost exactly what the 5e designers designed to. The purpose however is not what the majority of the customer base wants.
Hmmm...how do you know?

I mean, we can agree that the game has been incredibly successful. It is possible that this success is despite it failing in an important way that, as you claim, "the majority of the customer base wants." So much so that it "breaks" the game.

Might I suggest that another, stronger possibility, is that what you want and what the customer base wants is not the same thing, and most do not consider the game broken?

I definitely don't want anything like the skill system that you describe.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
I know what I would do and I don't expect any of it to happen, but I think it would be better design.
First, I'd unlink all skills from Abilities. When a DM asks for a check, they would say "make an <ability> check, and <skill> applies." That's so freeing right there. It allows for PCs to say "hey, I have <skill>, do you think that applies to this check?"

Second, and this follows from the first, I would remove skills that are pretty much the same as other skills, but use different abilities. Do we need both an Athletics and Acrobatics skill? I say no. We could simply have Athletics (strength) and Athletics (dexterity) checks. Instead of Investigate and Perception, we could have Perception (wisdom) and Perception (intelligence) checks. The same could be done with Survival and Nature. We don't need all of these skills, characters don't have enough skills to do the things they should be able to do in their role, and exactly which skill to use is confusing. The D&D game I play in discusses whether you should use Investigate or Perception each session. Sometimes multiple times.

I'd have some more ideas, but I think those would be a good start. Although as a bonus, do we really need three different social skills that are all just getting someone to do something with a different method?
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I know what I would do and I don't expect any of it to happen, but I think it would be better design.
First, I'd unlink all skills from Abilities. When a DM asks for a check, they would say "make an <ability> check, and <skill> applies." That's so freeing right there. It allows for PCs to say "hey, I have <skill>, do you think that applies to this check?"

Second, and this follows from the first, I would remove skills that are pretty much the same as other skills, but use different abilities. Do we need both an Athletics and Acrobatics skill? I say no. We could simply have Athletics (strength) and Athletics (dexterity) checks. Instead of Investigate and Perception, we could have Perception (wisdom) and Perception (intelligence) checks. The same could be done with Survival and Nature. We don't need all of these skills, characters don't have enough skills to do the things they should be able to do in their role, and exactly which skill to use is confusing. The D&D game I play in discusses whether you should use Investigate or Perception each session. Sometimes multiple times.

I'd have some more ideas, but I think those would be a good start. Although as a bonus, do we really need three different social skills that are all just getting someone to do something with a different method?
That's not how the playloop works though. The player is incapable of knowing what skills might be relevant to a check and the skills themselves are so overly condensed that is almost guaranteed someone will either have the ability to say "oh I'm proficient in that and I have all six attributes too" or the very act of having a full group saying "do you think that applies to this check" reveals things the group shouldn't be aware of just by the very act of what gets a no with the inevitable drips & drabs of reasoning that keeps the GM from seeming hostile. 5e's skill system desperately wants to have the good aspects of pre-3.x cross GM screen collaborative narrative skills -and- deeply defined 3.x skill lists but it just gives the worst of both to GMs. The skills aren't defined with enough granularity for the good that 3.x style had and they are too defined for 2e style.

Using different ability scores with skills was a thing that goes wayyy back & is so simplistic that it amounts to being hardly something that can act as a keystone completing an incomplete set of skills, nor can it wash out a defined skill list to create a 2e style near-skillless skill system
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
That's not how the playloop works though.
I don't know what the playloop you're expecting looks like. Here's what I use in D&D and pretty much any game:

  1. D(G)M describes situation, asks "what do you do?"
  2. Player describes what they're doing (intent) and how they're doing it (method).
  3. D(G)M uses that to pick an ability score and skill to use.
  4. [Optional]Player describes an alternative based on what they see as the method. D(G)M decides which to use.
  5. Player Rolls D20 + Ability Mod + Proficiency Bonus (or Expertise) if applicable. Player takes Advantage into account if it apples as well as bonuses like Guidance.
  6. D(G)M describes result, taking possible Inspiration into account.

Honestly I use that if it's D&D or other rules systems, adjusting for the dice that should be rolled or other mechanical differences as they matter.

When the player gives their intent and method, they're pretty much describing the skill and ability they're going to be using, so there shouldn't be a surprise.

The problem I see with D&D is that the linking of skills and ability scores makes things more difficult and you have cases like Intimidate and Strength versus Charisma.

I have no illusion that this will be in the game, but it's part of the changes I would make.
 

Davinshe

Explorer
I know what I would do and I don't expect any of it to happen, but I think it would be better design.
First, I'd unlink all skills from Abilities. When a DM asks for a check, they would say "make an <ability> check, and <skill> applies." That's so freeing right there. It allows for PCs to say "hey, I have <skill>, do you think that applies to this check?"

Second, and this follows from the first, I would remove skills that are pretty much the same as other skills, but use different abilities. Do we need both an Athletics and Acrobatics skill? I say no. We could simply have Athletics (strength) and Athletics (dexterity) checks. Instead of Investigate and Perception, we could have Perception (wisdom) and Perception (intelligence) checks. The same could be done with Survival and Nature. We don't need all of these skills, characters don't have enough skills to do the things they should be able to do in their role, and exactly which skill to use is confusing. The D&D game I play in discusses whether you should use Investigate or Perception each session. Sometimes multiple times.

I'd have some more ideas, but I think those would be a good start. Although as a bonus, do we really need three different social skills that are all just getting someone to do something with a different method?
I think the explicit disconnect between attributes and skills could be done within the context of D&D one -- after all, alternate abilities are allowed now and this just makes that the default. Instead of an explicit attribute the skill description might include something like "this skill most commonly uses attribute X". This actually makes you look for interesting combinations. Perception (dexterity) for searching inside a dark hole, Handle animal (strength) for moving a stubborn donkey, persuasion (constitution) for spending all night arguing with a stubborn dwarf to see reason. These oddball combinations don't seem so oddball once the division between attribute and skill is the default.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
I think the explicit disconnect between attributes and skills could be done within the context of D&D one -- after all, alternate abilities are allowed now and this just makes that the default. Instead of an explicit attribute the skill description might include something like "this skill most commonly uses attribute X". This actually makes you look for interesting combinations. Perception (dexterity) for searching inside a dark hole, Handle animal (strength) for moving a stubborn donkey, persuasion (constitution) for spending all night arguing with a stubborn dwarf to see reason. These oddball combinations don't seem so oddball once the division between attribute and skill is the default.
I think doing this by default would help make the game more of what the designers want it to be: they want to move D&D into the realm of more "storyish" games, and this is a small way to do that can have huge effects. If you move from simply asking for a skill check to starting with "here's the situation, what do you want to do?" an them letting characters describe it, it becomes more immersive and helps people to be more creative. This is, of course, in my opinion.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I don't know what the playloop you're expecting looks like. Here's what I use in D&D and pretty much any game:

  1. D(G)M describes situation, asks "what do you do?"
  2. Player describes what they're doing (intent) and how they're doing it (method).
  3. D(G)M uses that to pick an ability score and skill to use.
  4. [Optional]Player describes an alternative based on what they see as the method. D(G)M decides which to use.
  5. Player Rolls D20 + Ability Mod + Proficiency Bonus (or Expertise) if applicable. Player takes Advantage into account if it apples as well as bonuses like Guidance.
  6. D(G)M describes result, taking possible Inspiration into account.

Honestly I use that if it's D&D or other rules systems, adjusting for the dice that should be rolled or other mechanical differences as they matter.

When the player gives their intent and method, they're pretty much describing the skill and ability they're going to be using, so there shouldn't be a surprise.

The problem I see with D&D is that the linking of skills and ability scores makes things more difficult and you have cases like Intimidate and Strength versus Charisma.

I have no illusion that this will be in the game, but it's part of the changes I would make.


Your listed step 4 does not exist & it shines a gigantic spotlight on what is "freeing" about continuing with the worst of both styles as a skill system. That spotlight is pointing directly at a stage set for players making quantum actions rather than committing to the thing they want to do while using a skill system that is structured just enough to bind the GM with explicitly defined abilities.

GM describes the situation is only going to be so deep & it's almost guaranteed to not include a description of some elements that could impact the player's described intent simply because some of those things might not be immediately apparent or known to the PCs .

That step2 is where 5e failing to go all in on picking either style of skill system really starts causing breakdown though. Players have enough explicitly defined skills to obliviate the need for them to actually describe anything of note in their intent beyond "use [skill]." The GM by extension lacks the flexibility to engage in the old style of looking at the situation & the PC hoping to do a thing before deciding the how/what/if on it because anything but "ok roll dice" is disallowing a PC from using an ability explicitly granted to them.

The six attributes filled by an elite array simply does not present the GM enough variance or weight for any meaningful differentiation either & you aren't going to see the PC who dumped charisma trying to act as face or glass cannon who dumped strength trying to lift heavy things so it's almost always going to be a PC trying to do something that uses one of their highest attributes.
 
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Given the current design imperative of removing "Mother May I" mechanics from player abilities, I think they are moving away from mixing and matching ability bonuses and skill bonuses to the point it may not even get mentioned as a DM option. I do expect to possibly see more things like the new Barbarian ability that allows them to substitute their Strength modifier on their Perception and Stealth checks when raging if that survives the playtest process. I think some of the issues with skills could be remedied via more robust application of the Expertise mechanic, but given that has become the defining feature of the Expert group of classes, I am guessing they are not going down that road either.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Heh... well, I guess your feeling comes down to what your opinion of "not what the majority of the customer base wants" means.

You are correct that a single system will not be 100% what most players want. But that is true of every single rule in the game-- every single rule will be exactly what a few players might want... but every other player would have wished for the rule to be tweaked ever so much-- a different word choice here... a little added rule bit bit there... a restriction there. No rule can or will satisfy 100% of what a player wants 100% of the time.

So the point that the skill system is not what most players want is essentially meaningless. Most players don't want the current skill system? Yeah, well...

- Most players also don't want the way currently that hit points work. They'd have the rules for that changed in a heartbeat-- with every single player wanting a completing different change from every other player.

- Most players want how races/species are defined and designed different from what we currently have, but no one could all agree what those changes should be.

- Most players think the feat system should eliminate some feats, add others, adjust the balance on even more, or completely remove the system altogether.

So on and so forth down the line.

But WotC is not here to make a set of game rules that is going to work for ALL players equally well, because that is statistically impossible. It cannot be done. The best they can do is build a foundational set of rules that work okay for most players, even if they are not preferred. And that's what every single skill system D&D has had since they started including them...

Your post doesn't match the point of my post.

My point was that 80% of 5e players are Millenials or younger but the 5e core skill system was designed with a survey that gave the 20% that are Older than Millenials and preferred fantasy and rpgs styles older than Millenials more than their 20% of representation. Possibly double or even triple it.

Mostly because the 5e survey both had a high bar of acceptance and polled a higher percentage of Gen Xers are older than its current playerbase.

So when 5e blew up, mostly with people under ~43 year old, the playerbase became heavily shifted away from whom it was designed for. And this shift caused a shift of desire of what the fanbase wanted form lore, mechanics, and tools.

And this includes the skill system.

I might even say the 2014 skill system is mostly heavily tolerated more than it is liked, loved, or prefered. It is mostly the lack of competition within D&D's field for 5e's core fanbase ,due to the costs and risks of making a whole new RPG not based on an edition, that a popular houserule hasn't been widely adopted or new game swapped to.
 

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