Is expertise badly designed?

Ristamar

Explorer
Regarding Reliable Talent, one interesting quirk in the rules is that it has absolutely no effect on passive scores.

If you want to really challenge a high level rogue with expertise, throw in an encounter that requires extended/repeated activities with with lots of opportunities to apply advantage or disadvantage on the opposing checks (roll for trap and hazard DC's instead of using static values). As the DM, roll in the open when possible as the rogue faces any obstacles. Avoid hard, binary fail states and be sure to include interesting choices and decision points in both success and failure so the player doesn't feel like the scene is on autopilot. And don't overuse this technique because players enjoy rolling dice.
 
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the Jester

Legend
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.
No it doesn't.

3e assumes a base of +1 per level in things you're good at. 4e assumes +1 per 2 levels. Not to mention all the other boni you get, e.g. feats, magic weapons, stat bumps without a limit, etc. You can assume that the actual bonus a 3e or 4e character will have at any level above about 3rd will be significantly- perhaps even vastly- higher. The math is unbounded. Often, the difference between two pcs' bonuses for the same thing can be greater than the 20 pips on the die you are rolling. In other words, there are monsters that are a challenge to the fighter that other pcs simply can't touch.

In 5e, the math has real limitations imposed on it. And that doesn't make the game function poorly- it makes it shine. It enables mixed-level play. It maintains the worth of low level monsters even at high levels. It means that there is no case where the combat-dedicated rogue simply can't hit the bad guy that is a challenge for the fighter.

Now, that all may be not to your taste. That's fine. But that doesn't mean that it's functioning poorly- just that it's not to your taste.
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
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.
4e was based off +1 per level after all modifiers.

+15/29 for half level, +4/29 for attribute, +6/29 for enhancement/item, +3ish for feat is +28 over 29 levels.

In 5e it is +4 prof/19 +2 stat/19 and optionally +3 enchant/19 for +9/19.

This isn't far off half 4e in one sense, but 1/3 4e in another (over domain of game).

ACs on monaters do not scale as fast by design. ACs tend to start off 'high', and don't grow as fast as ATK.

Skills in both are less controlled.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
Yes expertise is a mess & causes two problems as you advance. For example, an 8 int rogue or bard with arcana expertise will consistently put the dunce cap on a wizard with high int & mere proficiency in arcana. The second is that expertise on a skill that aligns with your prime stat amounts to always succeed against anything but plot armor An Arcane trickster with 20 dex & expertsie in stealth is going to wind up with+17 to the d20 & as soon as 9th level will have +13 making success all but certain sneaking through a gloomstalker's favored forest terrain while the gloomstalker's mere proficiency & 20 dex still has some chance of failing with her feeble +9 that will continue to fall behind

In my game I use proficiency dice(dmg263) & allow expertise advantage on the proficiency die
1579021688561.png

It has the effect at being more meaningful at lower levels (ie low chance of snake eyes) while the growing variance of the increasing proficiecy die shaves down some of the problematic parts of expertise that myelf & others noted already
 

miggyG777

Villager
In my game I use proficiency dice(dmg263) & allow expertise advantage on the proficiency die
View attachment 117482
It has the effect at being more meaningful at lower levels (ie low chance of snake eyes) while the growing variance of the increasing proficiecy die shaves down some of the problematic parts of expertise that myelf & others noted already
Very interesting approach thank you for sharing!
 

Gradine

Final Form
Rogues being very good at skills is a problem... how?

Let players succeed. Your adventures should not hinge on the results of a single skill check (or even a handful) so I don't really understand what, if anything, this is supposed to be breaking in the first place.
 

MwaO

Explorer
Wow. That's ... hmm.

Those are certainly words. Do you have a source for that? Either one?

"Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level"

Page 274 details how monster AC and accuracy do scale with level. The DC guidance mentions about increasing DCs as PCs go up levels for bigger challenges. They don't mention the phrase 'bounded accuracy' anywhere in any of the core books. Nor do they mention how the game doesn't expect magic items to change the numbers and they're just something extra and unexpected and the game can handle it.

What they do say is that there's a typical campaign. And that typical campaign expects that PCs find magic items, almost eerily at a rate of 1 good number changing magic item per 4 levels. And that it is likely a 20th level weapon using PC probably finds roughly a +3 weapon. Which would mean they would adjust their to-hit by a total of +9 over 19 levels, exactly one half the likely +18 over 19 levels of 4e. And they would adjust their skills by +6, exactly one half the likely +12 over those same levels. And find a total of 5 magic items, exactly one half the 10 you'd expect to find in a 4e game using inherent bonuses.

 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

"Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level"

Page 274 details how monster AC and accuracy do scale with level. The DC guidance mentions about increasing DCs as PCs go up levels for bigger challenges. They don't mention the phrase 'bounded accuracy' anywhere in any of the core books. Nor do they mention how the game doesn't expect magic items to change the numbers and they're just something extra and unexpected and the game can handle it.

What they do say is that there's a typical campaign. And that typical campaign expects that PCs find magic items, almost eerily at a rate of 1 good number changing magic item per 4 levels. And that it is likely a 20th level weapon using PC probably finds roughly a +3 weapon. Which would mean they would adjust their to-hit by a total of +9 over 19 levels, exactly one half the likely +18 over 19 levels of 4e. And they would adjust their skills by +6, exactly one half the likely +12 over those same levels. And find a total of 5 magic items, exactly one half the 10 you'd expect to find in a 4e game using inherent bonuses.

Two things.

1. It's .... an interesting choice that your first source for the statement, "Bounded Accuracy isn't actually a thing in 5e" is an article from a developer talking about how the system was designed with the concept of bounded accuracy in mind.

That's definitely a choice. Of sources. I assume you found it when you searched for "bounded accuracy" and went for the first link on D&D Wiki (that's what comes up) but I would suggest ... understanding the design principle.* :)


2. There are similarities between 4e and 5e, just like there are between all editions. But your statement is no more correct (that all 5e math is just 4e math /2) than if I was to say, "All 5e abilities are just 1e abilities, except they only go to 20." It's both trivially correct, and also incredibly wrong.

But I do appreciate your explanation of your thought process, which is similar to what @TwoSix thought it would be.



*By the way, saying that something has a design principle in mind without stating the design principle in the object itself is hardly ... groundbreaking. Here, let's try it.

"Did you know that U.S. Constitution never, not even once, says anything about separation of powers ... or checks and balances! How you like dem apples????"
 
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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.
It's not a bad design, it's just a place where 5e's goals of simplicity and BA are at slightly cross purposes.
Mainly, at high level, which doesn't generally seem to be a high priority in D&D game-design, anyway.

If you want to make Expertise more complicated to make it play nicer with BA, you could change it's progression, or have it replace proficiency with a different progression or cap total proficiency + stat modifier bonuses.

For instance, here Expertise replaces Proficiency:
Experience PointsLevelProficiency BonusExpertise Bonus
01+2+5
3002+2+5
9003+2+5
2,7004+2+5
6,5005+3+6
14,0006+3+6
23,0007+3+6
34,0008+3+6
48,0009+4+6
64,00010+4+6
85,00011+4+6
100,00012+4+6
120,00013+5+7
140,00014+5+7
165,00015+5+7
195,00016+5+7
225,00017+6+8
265,00018+6+8
305,00019+6+8
355,00020+6+8
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
That looks like a lot of work for "+3 mostly".

Or +1d6 (+3 on passive checks) for some fun, as people with expertise are supposed to focus on skills, so extra mechanics makes sense. You could even tie it back to proficiency: "When you have expertise you add +1d4 to attribute checks that use that proficiency. You can reroll that 1d4 and replace the result up to your proficiency bonus times before taking a long rest." for some bonus bookkeeping. That'll bound the bonus to +4, while still getting progressively better (more reliable) as you gain levels.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
No official content breaks the game. Fiddling with the details to 'adjust for balance' is usually more trouble than it is worth.

In the 1970s and 1980s, AD&D was a very unbalanced game. A wizard was a joke at low levels and by far the most powerful at medium and high levels. High level fighters were tough, but nothing compared to a meteor swarm. However, you could have a lot of fun playing any class. The secret is: Balance is not necessary to have a great game.

"But balance makes everyone have equal fun and spotlight!" This, my friends, is a huge lie.

Go listen to some Critical Role. Ask yourself which PCs are more powerful and which are less powerful. Then ask yourself who appears to be having the most fun and taking up the most spotlight.
 

MwaO

Explorer
Two things.

1. It's .... an interesting choice that your first source for the statement, "Bounded Accuracy isn't actually a thing in 5e" is an article from a developer talking about how the system was designed with the concept of bounded accuracy in mind.

That's definitely a choice. Of sources. I assume you found it when you searched for "bounded accuracy" and went for the first link on D&D Wiki (that's what comes up) but I would suggest ... understanding the design principle.* :)
Exactly what would I be quoting other than the original article?

Bounded Accuracy's core concept is again, "Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level, X happens". Bonuses might specifically increase, but not globally.

Proficiency is a global mechanic that as PCs go up level, those things scale with level(AC for monsters, how good PCs are at skills, monster+PC accuracy, DCs, and so on)

This guy left the team. Jeremy Crawford was put in charge of mechanics instead. They threw the mechanic out because it was unworkable. Explicitly because when they tried to implement things to make a Fighter do 30 damage per hit at 20th level, people freaked out on the surveys because they had a +1/level damage bonus.
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
"Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level"

Page 274 details how monster AC and accuracy do scale with level.
That is a CR calculator; higher AC and ATK does rssult in higher CR. That table is not "given a CR 17 monster it should have Y AC", and using it that way gives you garbage results, nor does it match monster manual monster design.

In 4e, being a level monster X actually increased your AC and F/R/W (save equivalent). A level 30 4e soldier should start out with 46 AC, then move it around based on feel.

In 5e, your AC/saves are generated via feel/simulation. And have some impact on CR. A CR 20 death knight in plate and shield starts at 20 AC, as does a CR 1 knight-captain of the guard. If you want more/less AC on either, you are supposed to justify it, even with nearly fkuff-less mechanics; "Death Knight Runes: the Death Knight armor is covered in necromatic runes. While the death knight is alive, it increases its AC by 5. When the death knight is destroyed, they crumble to dust. If someone else wears the armor, the death knight's old body will crumble and it will consume the soul of the new wearer, reforming fully healed.

Now, 25 AC on that death knight. Or "Armor of Unfaith: +5 AC and attackers cannot gain advantage on the death kinght" for a simpler one.

While this isn't completely different, it is different.

The level gamut of the two games also matters; without magic items, CR 1/8 monsters can challenge Level 20 PCs in reasonable numbers.
 

Mistwell

Legend
This is one of those issues where I think the theoretical doesn't match the experiential.

I think on paper people look at expertise and believe there will be a meaningful number of instances where the ability violates the principals of bounded accuracy in a way which would harm their games.

But in experience, after a lot of people have used this ability in practice, I've almost never seen anyone state they found it messed with their fun, with their assumptions about a challenge's difficulty, or any other aspect of the game.

I think the gap comes down to the fact this game has much more forgiving tolerances built into it than is assumed. The bounded accuracy numbers, particularly for skills, just are not that firm. There is enough room at the top and bottom end of the challenge charts to handle a bump like this without it blowing any built-in protections.

_

An example: The idea that the rogue who focuses on Arcana with expertise in Arcana outshines a Wizard with the Arcana skill.

First, the instances of this coming up are extremely rare. Rogues alone are somewhat rare (many consider them lower in power overall, particularly relative to the Wizard), choosing a high intelligence for a rogue would be rare and choosing one that is AS HIGH as a Wizard would be rarer still. And then choosing Arcana as one of their very few skills to apply expertise to (instead of something like perception, which everyone wants, or rogue-like skills such as slight of hand or acrobatics or the charisma based skills) is even more rare.

The combination is so rare that the effect on the game becomes fairly meaingless as Arcana checks will never be set so high as to assume a rogue, with a high intelligence, proficiency in arcana, and expertise in arcana. Sure, they could, in theory, have a +15 in Arcana. But the tolerances of the game were already set expecting a Wizard with a high intelligence and proficiency to be able to hit those challenges already (which will max out around a DC 30). So what, the rogue is hitting those challenges "even more"? In-game, it essentially isn't a big deal.

The assumption that you have a DC 35+ for something just...isn't a good one. 5e isn't like 3e. The DCs don't continue to go up like that over levels. They max out at DC 30 (nearly impossible) on a fixed chart which applies for all levels, 1-20, and most checks will be DC 20 (hard) or lower throughout the game.

Your 13th level Wizard will have probably a +10 bonus. Your rogue with expertise in Arcana who decided to not dump intelligence will probably have around a +12 bonus (because who are we kidding - you didn't max out intelligence and it was probably your third-highest stat).

OK, and? Most of your checks are at a DC 20 (hard) or lower. Both of you will make the check most of the time anyway. Your rogue might make it slightly more often than you, at the sacrifice of their precious expertise ability use for that skill...which is fine. You're likely playing up this aspect of your rogue in-game because the role-playing aspect would become meaningful if you're a rogue with expertise in arcana. The wizard didn't sacrifice nearly as much to get to nearly the same achievement.

Both of you can potentially make even the most nearly impossible check with luck, so in-game this just isn't breaking anything meaningful and you should be having fun with your arcana-focused rogue who probably has a penchant for Indiana Jones type tomb raiding for arcane objects of power without stepping on the toes of your Wizard who is regularly breaking the laws of physics with their spells. Both of you can make most Arcana checks, and the Wizard is probably happy he has someone else in the party able to make these checks if he or she happens to fail one because most parties don't have that kind of backup for that particular skill. I doubt the Wizard's player will feel like their being outshone. After all, it's not a counterspell check or a fireball - it's mostly just figuring stuff out concerning arcane things, which helps the adventure move along.
 
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jgsugden

Adventurer
#1: Expertise in a skill which makes you so good that you effectively never fail is not a bug, it is a feature. Legendary heroes are supposed to be insaenly good at some things.

#2: Let's compare a 20th level rogue with an 8 int and Arcana expertise with a 20th level wizard with a 20 int and proficiency in arcana. The rogue is +11. The wizard is .... +11. Is this a problem?

The wizard knows his stuff. He is smart and well educated. It is a reasonable story.

The rogue is not very smart, but he has studied and studied magic. While the wizard was learned to cast spells, he was learned the lore of spells. It wasn't easy for him, but he did it. And now he can answer magic questions with the best of them (except for the multi-class wizard 19/rogue 1 with a +17 in arcana).

Those are both fine stories, and neither breaks the game.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Exactly what would I be quoting other than the original article?

Bounded Accuracy's core concept is again, "Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level, X happens". Bonuses might specifically increase, but not globally.

Proficiency is a global mechanic that as PCs go up level, those things scale with level(AC for monsters, how good PCs are at skills, monster+PC accuracy, DCs, and so on)
shakes head You can't just quote parts you like.

Here's the rest of that ...

"This means that characters, as they gain levels, see a tangible increase in their competence, not just in being able to accomplish more amazing things, but also in how often they succeed at tasks they perform regularly."

I could keep going on, but at a very fundamental level, you aren't grokking either the core design concept, 5e, or both.

It's one thing to discuss parts of 5e that break BA, or how well it succeeded, but ... well, you've set up an interesting position there. Kind of the "flat earth" of 5e design, I guess.
 
That looks like a lot of work for "+3 mostly".
Not as much as I looks like, but, yeah, that's kinda the point. Expertise may 'break BA' at high levels, but it's simple.

Or +1d6 (+3 on passive checks) for some fun, as people with expertise are supposed to focus on skills, so extra mechanics makes sense. You could even tie it back to proficiency: "When you have expertise you add +1d4 to attribute checks that use that proficiency. You can reroll that 1d4 and replace the result up to your proficiency bonus times before taking a long rest." for some bonus bookkeeping. That'll bound the bonus to +4, while still getting progressively better (more reliable) as you gain levels.
Sure. In the playtest there was even a version of proficiency that was all adder dice, no bonuses.
 
Expertise is a substantial part of what these classes get. It is much of what they contribute to the party. Rogues, in particular, have pretty one note play outside of skills (I sneak attack. Next turn: I sneak attack), and it is the main time that Bards get the spotlight rather than being the person in the back buffing and debuffing for the glory of others. All well designed classes gets their time to shine and outclass the others.

It only covers a limited number of skills, and a number of skills are mostly just relevant to the person who has them, such as the stealth that only the most eccentric Rogues will not be spending one of their expertise on. Until level five it is on average less effective than the guidance cantrip, and that can continue to be used on any skill rather than (eventually) four skills.

In fourth and late 3rd tier it will get to the point where they almost can't fail a check for which they have expertise, and without a natural one rule will never fail DC 10 or 15 checks. But bear in mind game breaking rates of success are generally just a case of setting DCs too low. Some of the more game-breakable skills to have near automatic success would be persuasion and deception, but it really is not a huge problem to have the Bard be able to get a moderate discount with all but the most prickly merchants, or consistently talk their way past the town guard, or almost always make allies of npcs who could have just as easily become enemies. This still doesn't let them achieve anything unachievable, and if things achievable by a lucky die roll are going to break your game then there are bigger problems. It is totally reasonable for some npcs, by reason of belief, personality, or fear of their boss to be unpersuadable. You're not going to talk the Pope into quitting Catholicism even if you roll a 32.

There is the danger that certain types of checks become boring, but this will depend on the personality of the player. Once again it is a key time to shine for these classes. If they don't enjoy being awesome at skills then they should probably be picking a different class.

Also for most of the skills expertise really just adds realism as people in the real world who heavily develop certain types of skills (experts, if you will) are almost automatically going to succeed when they do anything of normal or even fairly high difficulty with them. The real world has plenty of people who would almost never fail a performance check, and I've certainly had various professors who (separately) would have at least minimally passed almost any moderate to difficult history, religion, or nature check, and in a world of magic the same would be the case for Arcana. If acrobats could not be confident in the certainty of their success there would be no such thing as acrobats.
 

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