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D&D 5E Is expertise badly designed?

miggyG777

Explorer
I am a fairly new DM. I have heard a couple of people argue, that rogue and bard expertise is a bad design choice due to its impact on the modifiers in the bounded accuracy system. Is it too strong or just right? I would be interested in hearing your opinions.
 

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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I've played with rogues and bards at high level and have not noticed a problem. It does mean the rogue and bard are most likely to succeed at skill checks, but that's kind of the goal of the subsystem.
 


RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
Expertise alone isn't as powerful as a number of other abilities or spells. It's certainly not too strong.

For example, take the Rogue's 11th level Reliable Talent ability, which means that they can't roll lower than 10 on a proficient skill check. Or the Pass Without Trace spell, which adds +10 to Stealth. Or, at levels lower than 13th, the Guidance cantrip's +d4 has the potential to add as much or more to a skill check as Expertise. Or Bardic Inspiration can add +d6/d8/d10/d12 to a skill check, which has the potential to exceed the bonus from Expertise at all levels. (Even up to 2x/3x.)

Any of those one adds a larger bonus (or at least potential bonus, or potential effective bonus) than the +2/3/4/5/6 from Expertise alone.

And a number of these sources of skill bonuses can all be stacked together, resulting in possible skill checks of over 50 without too much trouble, or over 100 in some extreme situations...

Which means, for example, that no matter what the skill in particular is, you need to be that class in order to be the best (in terms of possible modifiers).

Not necessarily. There are other (sub)classes that gain Expertise, like Knowledge Cleric or Purple Dragon Knight. And there are feats that grant Expertise, both official like Prodigy and UA stuff like the various Skill Feats.
 
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Olrox17

Hero
Expertise isn't the best designed system ever. It's limiting towards classes that have no access to it, and it's just a number increase, which is effective, but can be a bit boring.
It's not bad though, there are much worse offenders of bounded accuracy in 5e, several of which were mentioned by previous posters.
 


MwaO

Explorer
I am a fairly new DM. I have heard a couple of people argue, that rogue and bard expertise is a bad design choice due to its impact on the modifiers in the bounded accuracy system. Is it too strong or just right? I would be interested in hearing your opinions.

1: Bounded Accuracy isn't actually a thing in 5e. 5e uses 4e/2 math. Except when it doesn't and then things function really poorly.

2: There's nothing particularly wrong with Expertise at low levels. The issue shows up at higher levels where Rogue's Reliable Talent means that something that Rogues want as a focus of their character is basically by definition never a challenge or there's less than a 50% chance of success. Now some players might want that because they auto-succeed at any task important to them. But some players might not want to auto-succeed at say deception because they enjoy the risk of failure.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Every system has its flaws. And yes, it breaks bounded accuracy (as do a number of other things).

Expertise is an attempt to make "skill monkey" mean something serious. You could argue breaking bounded accuracy is a feature (together with reliable talent). The high level rogue gets a near veto on 4 kinds of skill checks.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The question I would have is "too strong" or "just right" compared to... what? The players and their characters aren't in a competition and there's simply no competition between what the characters can dish out and what the DM can bring to bear. And in an RPG, what matters is spotlight in my view, and I haven't seen expertise really mess with that, particularly as the DM largely controls it.

I wouldn't worry about it, especially as a new DM. I recommend focusing on your vision for the game and preparing elements that speak to your adventure and campaign's theme, plus table management, pacing, and improvisation skills. That will take you a lot further than getting into the weeds of the game mechanics.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
Expertise allows one to consistently overcome certain types of challenges but generally skill checks don't derail the game like some magic can. Some DMs may be annoyed about removing uncertainty from things like disarming traps, picking locks, or spotting hidden things, but in my opinion expertise just allows the character to shine in their chosen area.
 



I've had no trouble with Expertise - it's okay for characters to get to shine at Their Thing.

And heck, even with Expertise, I've whiffed so badly on some rolls that it didn't matter.
 

cmad1977

Hero
I am a fairly new DM. I have heard a couple of people argue, that rogue and bard expertise is a bad design choice due to its impact on the modifiers in the bounded accuracy system. Is it too strong or just right? I would be interested in hearing your opinions.

If you see people talking about how ‘broken’ a mechanic or feat or class is, you can be sure of one thing. They aren’t people whose feedback you want.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If you make sure you are only calling for checks on thins that are uncertain Expertise works just fine. It just makes some characters better at some things you were already OK with them succeeding at.

^ This. Make sure you, the DM, are the one calling for ability checks, not the players. The criteria for calling for ability checks is that what the player described has (1) an uncertain outcome and (2) a meaningful consequence for failure. If either of those requirements are not met, there is no ability check. You just narrate the result of the adventurer's success or failure.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Wow. That's ... hmm.

Those are certainly words. Do you have a source for that? Either one?
5e math for proficiency bonus is roughly 4e/2. 4e is Level/2, round down. 5e is 2+((Level-1)/4,) round down. The growth rate is two times higher, although the +2 means it's never actually twice as much within the level domain of 5e. (4e level 20 is at +10, 5e level 20 is at +6).

Likewise, stat bonuses in 4e tended to get in the +8-10 range, while 5e is limited to +5.

I think the assertion about "not using bounded accuracy" is that magic items are present in the game, but not accounted for in the challenge calculations of monsters. I think, anyway, MwaO would have to clarify.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I am a fairly new DM. I have heard a couple of people argue, that rogue and bard expertise is a bad design choice due to its impact on the modifiers in the bounded accuracy system. Is it too strong or just right? I would be interested in hearing your opinions.

Our table has a few problems with expertise (not the concept, mind, but the results):

Only rogues and bards get it. So, by this, a rogue/bard will be better at any skill they have expertise than any other class. This makes no sense that a rogue or bard can be better just because they are "skill monkeys" and its "their thing."

The bonus is too much (for us) , especially at higher levels.

For instance, average passive perception is about 12-15 for most monsters. A 5th level rogue with expertise in stealth and DEX 18 would have a +10, making most stealth checks nearly automatic. At higher levels, with Reliable Talent, that makes it so the minimum stealth check beats nearly every monster's passive perception. In other words, a rogue becomes nearly undetectable when they can stealth. While for some people this is okay, it was too much for us and made things too easy that should have some degree of risk.

To balance this out, we've implemented two house-rules:

1. Any character can take expertise in one of their background skills at the expense of their other background skill. Ex. A soldier has Athletics and Intimidation. You could choose expertise in Athletics by giving up proficiency in Intimidation. Of course, you can still take proficiency in Intimidation as a class skill.

2. We changed expertise to advantage. We did this because we use an expanded proficiency that caps at +8 instead of +6. Using a flat +2 bonus or half proficiency is also a good idea. It makes expertise valuable without being too strong.

That is our table's take on it anyway.
 

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