D&D 5E Lets Rank the 5e Skills!

Diplomacy? Do you mean Persuasion? Why the separation? To separate those characters good with animals from those good with "people". Plus as others have mentioned, if you need to control an animal, it is the skill you want. I, personally, would allow it for other things involving animals as well (e.g., evaluating the value of an animal, training an animal, etc.)

Yes, I mean Persuasion. Going to need to adapt to the new terms...

The issue I find is, I just don't see any justification for the distinction. Many of the same things that can be used on animals are often applied to humans, just in different forms. But, that is just my preferences and perspective.

I am taking off in a few minutes. Can you elaborate?

The idea of randomly failing does not, what I have seen, apply to actual trained performers. Typically, the causes of their failure are not random, but easily predicted. The amateurs tend to be more random, but that is a lack of professional training coming into play. Keep in mind this is only my own perspective.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I agree.

Last session there was a rooftop chase (lots of jumping and balancing), session before that lots of wall scaling. Session before that - lots of swimming and balancing on very narrow walkways.

Athletics and acrobatics have so far played major roles! I'd give the skills usefulness a B at least (not 100% necessary but very useful and the players with low checks really feel it).

Another consideration. With persuasion, you usually only need 1 maybe 2 people good at it. Perception helps everyone but as long as someone in the party is good at it you shouldn't miss that much. Athletics/acrobatics is something the individual needs to be good at.
Wow, really? No encounters that ever use climbing, swimming, jumping, crossing slippery surfaces, tightropes, rocking ships, forcing open a stuck door, breaking bonds free, pushing through a small tunnel, hanging onto something while being dragged, tipping over a heavy object, holding something heavy back from rolling, etc..

Those two are some of the most used skills in my games.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I propose the following replacement skills (choose one at char-gen)

Move: Used to Climb, Jump, Swim, Tumble, Balance, Run, Cartwheel, etc.
Thief: Used to Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Disable Traps, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, and Read Languages
Magicy: Used to Sense Magic, Learn Spells, Identify Items, Determine Monster Special Abilities, and Read Runes
Knowledge: Used to Know stuff about people, places, things and events.
Talk: Used to Persuade, Lie, Sweet Talk, Frighten, Amuse, Anger, or otherwise speek gud.
Camp: Used to find water, track, hunt game, build campfires, soothe angry bears, and otherwise survive outdoors.
Perception: Used See, Hear, Smell, Taste, and Touch, as well as detect bs.
Peasant: Used to cook, clean, sew, grow corn, spin yarn, make tools, or do other mundane boring things.
Use Rope: Used to create a noose to have your PC hang himself when he realized what a useless skill he bought.

There, those skills should be broad enough. :D
 


Truename

First Post
I'm surprised at the amount of dislike Investigation is getting. One thing I noticed in the Starter Set adventure is that Investigation is often called for when searching a room for treasure and secret doors. Perception is so overpowered that I personally plan to use it primarily for *noticing* things, but Investigation for *finding* something.

As for Animal Handling, in the Starter Set adventure there's a
room with wolves in the first goblin complex. I'd definitely allow Animal Handling as an option for getting past those wolves.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Wow, really? No encounters that ever use climbing, swimming, jumping, crossing slippery surfaces, tightropes, rocking ships, forcing open a stuck door, breaking bonds free, pushing through a small tunnel, hanging onto something while being dragged, tipping over a heavy object, holding something heavy back from rolling, etc..

Those two are some of the most used skills in my games.

While I agree with your point, actually several notes in here don't use those skills.

Jumping - Set distance no check
Forcing a stuck door - Strength Check
Breaking Bonds - Str check
Holding something back from rolling - Str Check
 

Ichneumon

First Post
The usefulness of any skill is mitigated by whether the DM provides in-game situations where the skill will help out. Even the mighty Perception becomes a lot less useful if the DM never bothers to let monsters hide from or sneak up on the party, and instead just has them walk up to say hello. It's also likely that upcoming DMG options will help some of the skills shine.

Notes on a few of them.

Animal Handling. Yeah, it very much depends on how much of a role animals play in the DM's campaign. If it's a good idea for the PCs not to kill animals, such as in a sacred wood, then having someone to calm tigers and elephants can help. A guard dog can be persuaded not to bark as the PCs sneak into a camp. If a DM decides that normal horses are scared of combat, as in previous editions, then Animal Handling will be useful for getting them to move towards foes. Undead were also good at scaring animals in earlier editions. Will 5e bring some of that back? If so, Animal Handling will have its place.

Investigation. Not quite properly defined with respect to Perception in the minds of many gamers. A good rule of thumb is that Perception takes its findings at face value, while Investigation can determine that something is not as it seems. It's the designated illusion-buster in the basic rules, and is used in an example of play to check whether gargoyle statues are statues or gargoyle monsters. Also a useful go-to skill when a PC wants to hunt out information in old tomes & libraries.

Performance, Persuasion, Deception, Intimidation
So many ways to convince people to do what you want! For them all to have a place, the DM should create NPCs which are more or less susceptible to specific skills. Persuasion is the best skill in many situations, but not when the PCs must deal with a fanatic. Performance is very useful for distracting a crowd. I expect that the full NPC interaction rules will help give these skills greater definition.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
While I agree with your point, actually several notes in here don't use those skills.

Jumping - Set distance no check

Listed specifically in athletics as, "you attempt to jump an unusually long distance or pull off a stunt midjump"

Forcing a stuck door - Strength Check

Quote from the same skill, "force open a stuck, locked, or barred door".

Breaking Bonds - Str check

Again, it's a quote directly from the skill, "break free of bonds".

Holding something back from rolling - Str Check

And again, it was a quote from the skill, "keep a boulder from rolling".

Of course these are strength checks, as that's what you use if you are not trained in the skill. Like all skills, being trained in them gives you your proficiency bonus to your check. But I was 100% correct in all those things I listed.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Mistwell said:
Wow, really? No encounters that ever use climbing, swimming, jumping, crossing slippery surfaces, tightropes, rocking ships, forcing open a stuck door, breaking bonds free, pushing through a small tunnel, hanging onto something while being dragged, tipping over a heavy object, holding something heavy back from rolling, etc..

These things are, IMXP, almost always superfluous and secondary. They are the purple prose of encounter design. ;)

The issue is that they're binary. Either you can do it, or you can't. Thus, a challenge like this falls into three camps: Either no one can do it, some people can do it and some people can't, or everyone can do it.

If no one can do it, it's just a wall. The skill roll isn't going to work. The DM can't expect you to do it.

If some people can do it and some people can't, it's not necessary. Since the DM isn't going to split the party, the skill roll is inessential -- there's some other way around the obstacle (even if that other way is "get a rope"). If no one had the skill, the party would still be able to accomplish the goal at hand...or else it's a wall for those people without the skill, and the DM can't expect you to do it.

If everyone can do it, the skill roll is just color. Acrobatics, athletics, picking your nose, underwater basketweaving, whatever, the point is just to do something that will keep the story going, "push A to proceed" style

Mort said:
Last session there was a rooftop chase (lots of jumping and balancing), session before that lots of wall scaling. Session before that - lots of swimming and balancing on very narrow walkways.

Did the characters who lacked these skills just sit around the twiddling their thumbs? Or were they forced to try and fail, thus making it something they could only contribute to negatively? Or did they contribute in some other way, thus meaning that Athletics & Acrobatics are redundant with other things?
 

CM

Adventurer
I'm surprised people rate Handling animals so low. Every campaign I've been it has PCs getting and using horses when they can and having mules to carry the treasure. Not knowing how to deal with the animals is not a pretty sight. PCs hate it when the mule carrying thousands in gold goes running off scared into the wilderness.

I can honestly say that in nearly 25 years of D&D I have seen a party buy a mule exactly once. It got carried off in a wyvern attack a few sessions in.
 

CM

Adventurer
If some people can do it and some people can't, it's not necessary. Since the DM isn't going to split the party, the skill roll is inessential -- there's some other way around the obstacle (even if that other way is "get a rope"). If no one had the skill, the party would still be able to accomplish the goal at hand...or else it's a wall for those people without the skill, and the DM can't expect you to do it.

<snip>

Did the characters who lacked these skills just sit around the twiddling their thumbs? Or were they forced to try and fail, thus making it something they could only contribute to negatively? Or did they contribute in some other way, thus meaning that Athletics & Acrobatics are redundant with other things?

That is a pretty bizarre, narrow-minded line of thinking.

So if the party wants to chase a fleeing thief across rooftops, if some of the party members are unable to make all the relevant skill checks, I should tell the players the thief escapes because skill training. Gotcha.:hmm:

What actually happens is that the untrained members eventually fall behind as they roll poorly, and the better-trained and luckier party members still might have a chance to catch up with our fleeing thief. My parties split up all the time. Sometimes it proves productive, and sometimes it's punishing.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
[MENTION=2067]Kamikaze Midget[/MENTION]
About "access" uses of skills like Acrobatics and Athletics...I tend to design for those to be used as one option amidst several to tackling a problem, with a distinct advantage for the PC who succeeds at such a skill check.

For example, a party pursues a thief thru the crowded Undercity, when they catch a glimpse of the thief climbing over a rain-slicked wall and into a tunnel. There is a path that wends thru tenement housing and into the tunnel, though it will take more time. A PC who climbs the wall (or who casts a fly spell) can catch up with the fleeing thief before he reaches reinforcements at the Undercity Port.

OTOH there is nothing bad with requiring negative uses of these skills, for example to hang onto a rope bridge slamming into a canyon wall after an NPC cuts it.

Also, you indicate that "DMs won't split the party", whereas I've found it common for short term splitting as I described to occur. Different play experiences, and all that.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
If everyone can do it, the skill roll is just color. Acrobatics, athletics, picking your nose, underwater basketweaving, whatever, the point is just to do something that will keep the story going, "push A to proceed" style

Uh, that's not how skills work though. Of course everyone can do it - it's all just ability checks. But being trained in the skill gets your proficiency bonus added to it, making it more likely you will succeed at the check. Everyone can attack with a weapon or try and dodge a spell with a dex save...it's just that some are better at it than others.

Did the characters who lacked these skills just sit around the twiddling their thumbs? Or were they forced to try and fail, thus making it something they could only contribute to negatively? Or did they contribute in some other way, thus meaning that Athletics & Acrobatics are redundant with other things?

Maybe it was binary in a prior edition of the game, but it's a continuum in this version. You have better odds of success with training. So no, they did not sit around doing nothing - they tried, and had a worse chance of succeeding. It's the same as any check, like an attack roll or saving throw. The bigger your bonus, the better chance of hitting the target DC/AC.
 
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Disclaimer: I actually love skills, and I love playing the skill monkey. However, in a cold antiseptic light, I am willing to believe that most of them lack the utility they ought to have. This is a great exercise; here's a different view...

A. Crucial. Everyone should have one of Athletics or Acrobatics: you never need both, but either one can be used to justify some sort of physical interaction, and it is useful for every member of the party. The one you don't take becomes "D", unless you are pursuing a concept.

If your DM is going to push you into social situations, then you also want one of Investigation, Persuasion, and Intimidation. Again, you never need more than one. Pick your preferred means of interacting with others in order to get information, and the rest become "D" (unless, again, "concept"). If you want, you can leave these for someone else in the party, but you risk being deprotagonized, so grab one of them.

B. Important only in certain campaigns. Of zero value (D), unless the DM decides to build a campaign around it, is Animal Handling if you're going to be riding things or have mounted combat. You don't want to be the only one not riding a hippogriff, or stuck with the covered wagon from your tool proficiency with land vehicles. Stealth. Unless you want to go off on your own, the party is only as quiet as the low dex dwarf. Completely useless if you want to live. Performance is only useful if you are a bard, or if you don't like the guy playing the bard and you want to show him up; otherwise D.

C. Someone should have it, but it doesn't need to be you. One person in the party needs to have each of Insight and Perception maxed to the gills: though more than one is not needed. It's part of why they're not good skills -- they present crucial information, but (a) it's often the case that the DM is going to give the info to whoever has the highest perception/insight anyways, and (b) one success causes success for the whole party. So does that make it important? Selfishly, I'd actually say no -- your character never needs it, because someone else will always have them. Unless you just want to be that guy. That guy is fun to play, of course, but it's a narrative choice, not a tactical one. In the same category is survival and arcana: as long as one character will build an ice fort for you every night, it doesn't need to be your responsibility; as long as someone can identify the weird magical thing, it's fine. It just never needs to be you. (At upper levels, religion eventually falls into this category too.) Finally, someone needs to know how to lie, and so one person in the party should have deception.

D. Rookie Mistakes. Seriously, you want Medicine in a world where tool proficiency with a healer's kit can make half price healing potions, and there are clerics, paladins, second winds, and short rests? Might as well take Nature: the guy with survival can tell you all you need to know. Maybe take if you're a druid and you want to act in character. Then there's History, only useful as an excuse to let the DM tell you what happened before your party began adventuring. You'd be better learning Sleight of Hand, so you can pick the pockets of people who don't have perception.

So, in summary:
A -- two skills everyone needs, one physical, one social
B -- one or two that you might need, but is campaign specific
C -- six skills that the party needs, but try not to be the chump saddled with them. Take one, two if you're lawful good.
D -- everything else.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
Did the characters who lacked these skills just sit around the twiddling their thumbs? Or were they forced to try and fail, thus making it something they could only contribute to negatively? Or did they contribute in some other way, thus meaning that Athletics & Acrobatics are redundant with other things?

The key is to have multiple approaches to a situation possible or even better necessary. For example, while the ranger was engaging in the rooftop chase, the fighter and mage were going through the streets trying to cut Hobgoblins off at the pass. While the monk was balancing on a narrow beam to retrieve an item the party wanted, the fighter was holding the rope and the cleric and rogue were readying for the hell they were certain would break loose the second the monk grabbed the item.

As for contributing negatively? sometimes you must come out of your comfort zone and be required to do things you're not good at. It doesn't mean you can't do it - you just won't be as good as the guy with better training and have to go more slowly/make more mistakes.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
CM said:
That is a pretty bizarre, narrow-minded line of thinking.

No more so than any other skill ranking. :p

CM said:
So if the party wants to chase a fleeing thief across rooftops, if some of the party members are unable to make all the relevant skill checks, I should tell the players the thief escapes because skill training. Gotcha.

The players who can't follow are just going to be twiddling their thumbs while the other ones do it (unless they want to have some pratfalls) so catching that thief RIGHT NOW can't be all that important. Let 'em go, hunt down his hideout with Persuasion on some thugs, stab him in his sleep, MUCH less effort. :)

Quickleaf said:
For example, a party pursues a thief thru the crowded Undercity, when they catch a glimpse of the thief climbing over a rain-slicked wall and into a tunnel. There is a path that wends thru tenement housing and into the tunnel, though it will take more time. A PC who climbs the wall (or who casts a fly spell) can catch up with the fleeing thief before he reaches reinforcements at the Undercity Port.

Which sounds like mostly a cosmetic difference (which is why they were in my group with stuff like Intimidation or History -- the "just like X but different" skills). Either way, they're going to go get that thief.

Mistwell said:
Of course everyone can do it - it's all just ability checks. But being trained in the skill gets your proficiency bonus added to it, making it more likely you will succeed at the check.

What I mean is that the results are very binary. There's a hard division between someone who makes that check and someone who doesn't, which means that, if the whole party is to do something, those who can't make the check need some other way to contribute to the goal.

The goal can't be "jump over that pit," because some folks just won't be able to do it.

If the goal is something like "stop that thief before she robs again!", then jumping over that pit isn't the only way to do it.

Mistwell said:
they tried, and had a worse chance of succeeding.

So why did they try? Why not use a skill they're actually good in that won't result in an ugly fall to your death? All things being equal, it's better to find the thief with A-, B-, or C- ranked skills than it is to chase them over the rooftops. Leave the acrobatics and athletics as special color for how the dex/str people did it.

Mort said:
The key is to have multiple approaches to a situation possible or even better necessary.

Right. Which means those two skills are a lot more limited in their applications than the skills I ranked higher.

They're mostly flavor skills.

Ichneumon said:
It's the designated illusion-buster in the basic rules,

Y'know, I kind of forgot about this. It's something Athletics/Acrobatics shares in that they're frequent ways to bust out of spells that you otherwise might not save against -- "active saves" so to speak.

That might be worth promoting them over the other D-ranks, and demoting those who don't have these uses into F-ranks.
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
What I mean is that the results are very binary. There's a hard division between someone who makes that check and someone who doesn't, which means that, if the whole party is to do something, those who can't make the check need some other way to contribute to the goal.

Why would it have to be the whole party doing it? You climb up somewhere to gain the advantage from height, you swim down somewhere to open a chest, you bust open the stuck door (just takes one person to do that and you can gain surprise with it), etc...these are movement skills, which give the individual character more options in how they move.

The goal can't be "jump over that pit," because some folks just won't be able to do it.

You jump over the pit with a rope, so that the others can do it easier using a rope. Are you seriously arguing you never encounter these types of challenges in your games?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Why would it have to be the whole party doing it? You climb up somewhere to gain the advantage from height, you swim down somewhere to open a chest, you bust open the stuck door (just takes one person to do that and you can gain surprise with it), etc...these are movement skills, which give the individual character more options in how they move.

In that case, they're just color. They don't let you accomplish a goal you wouldn't otherwise be able to accomplish. If you don't HAVE to burst open the door or get that chest or gain advantage in order to get the MacGuffin, you don't need the skill.

It's also possible to sprinkle cookies for any skills. "Oh, you can use Performance to soothe this savage beast" or "Animal Handling gets the parrot to squawk the password!" or "You'll need Sleight of Hand to get that key!"

And if it's not just color, the whole party needs to do it -- if the goal is go get over that pit, then you're going to need ways for people without Athletics/Acrobatics to get over that pit.

You jump over the pit with a rope, so that the others can do it easier using a rope. Are you seriously arguing you never encounter these types of challenges in your games?

I've never encountered one of these challenges that wasn't entirely ignorable or that I couldn't use some other skill to get the same result from.

I mean, they're D-ranked skills. You could say the same about Sleight of Hand or Performance or History. There are sometimes special challenges for those skills! Challenges that are mostly color or padding, and are hardly essential to the party's goals.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
And if it's not just color, the whole party needs to do it -- if the goal is go get over that pit, then you're going to need ways for people without Athletics/Acrobatics to get over that pit. .

Which is much harder if no one in the party has acrobatics/athletics - and that's ok.

Frankly, I'm perfectly comfortable putting in a physical challenge of this nature if no one in the party took the right skill. Crossing a narrow beam, or scaling a tough wall aren't some esoteric tasks adventurers are likely to never see. They should be prepared to face these challenges or suffer the consequences (say not completing a goal).

I blame 3e (and I think 1e/2e had some of the same problem, though not as much because 3e scrolls/wands) for making physical challenges such as this completely immaterial by about 5th level. I'd like that to stop being the case.

I've never encountered one of these challenges that wasn't entirely ignorable or that I couldn't use some other skill to get the same result from.

I mean, they're D-ranked skills. You could say the same about Sleight of Hand or Performance or History. There are sometimes special challenges for those skills! Challenges that are mostly color or padding, and are hardly essential to the party's goals.

But these should not be "special challenges". Pits, walls, beams, grappling monsters, constricting spells/vines, etc. - these should be common hazards of the adventuring life! And when I said multiple approaches to a problem, I didn't mean all should always have equal value, if the party doesn't have athletics in it's arsenal - they should be made to feel the loss occasionally.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Which is much harder if no one in the party has acrobatics/athletics - and that's ok.

Frankly, I'm perfectly comfortable putting in a physical challenge of this nature if no one in the party took the right skill. Crossing a narrow beam, or scaling a tough wall aren't some esoteric tasks adventurers are likely to never see. They should be prepared to face these challenges or suffer the consequences (say not completing a goal).

I blame 3e (and I think 1e/2e had some of the same problem, though not as much because 3e scrolls/wands) for making physical challenges such as this completely immaterial by about 5th level. I'd like that to stop being the case.

I've never seen a goal unable to be completed because someone fell off a thing or couldn't climb a thing.

Such a requirement would be a bit...bottlenecked.

But more key is that you need to MAKE these skills useful. They're not just useful on their own in normal play (like Perception) or useful on a player-determined basis (like, say Persuasion), the DM has to put something in the world that says "use This Skill Here for +x."

It's the old ranger's favored enemy problem: in a game without Orcs, having them as your favored enemy is useless, and even when it can be used, other people can still kill orcs.

But these should not be "special challenges". Pits, walls, beams, grappling monsters, constricting spells/vines, etc. - these should be common hazards of the adventuring life! And when I said multiple approaches to a problem, I didn't mean all should always have equal value, if the party doesn't have athletics in it's arsenal - they should be made to feel the loss occasionally.

You can do that to any skill, though. You can make the loss of Perform or Sleight of Hand *feel* bad. But that's the DM taking a proactive hand and is thus open to individual campaign variation, and isn't just embedded in the rules.
 

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