D&D 5E Lets Rank the 5e Skills!

Psikerlord#

Explorer
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.
I agree and think investigation and perception have a lot of potential cross over in 5e. investigation helps you find secret doors/traps etc just as much as perception, provided you have some time to look for clues. finding a trap via investigation might be dc 15, or dc 18 with perception, for example, because it should be easier to find clues to deduce there is a trap, as opposed to spotting the trap wholesale immediately. anything to balance out perception is good imo, its the top skill hands down, regardless!
 

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Psikerlord#

Explorer
I would rate skills as follows:
A. perception
B. athletics, acrobatics, persuasuion, deception, stealth, investigation, sleight of hand, insight
C. arcana, history, religion, survival, intimidation
D. animal handling, performance, medicine, nature
I expect every PC will take perception in 5e bec they can, and it is just so important to not dieing. also we wont be using passive perception ( a pointless mechanic imo and just leads to the samepc spotting everything all the time, snore).
 

Quickleaf

Legend
[MENTION=2067]Kamikaze Midget[/MENTION]
Well, from the perspective of the entire party ALL skill are just color.

Example: Perception allows you to sense an ambush to avoid being surprised, or discover a secret door leading to bonus encounters/treasure. Neither avoiding surprise nor the bonus encounters/treasure are "necessary" to the adventure arc. Likewise, Athletics can be used to climb after the thief to encounter him without backup, get to a hard to reach perch to fire arrows, or swim to the bottom of a lake to gain a sunken treasure.

None of those situations are "necessary" to the adventure, just like the case with Perception. They are color, yes, and color MATTERS. It matters because of the story space the player holds in their mind, reinforcing how they see their character. It matters because it suggests the sort of complications the DM might introduce if things don't go as planned. It matters when figuring out how to resolve a group check.

Also, going a bit deeper, I think you've grouped skills into two distinct categories:"Plot changing/scene framing" and "useless color", or something along those lines. Could you articulate this more clearly?
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
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.

You don't HAVE to do a damn thing in the game. You don't HAVE to engage in combat.

Bursting open the door in the right circumstances gains you surprise. You don't HAVE to gain surprise, but it's definitely not just color. You don't HAVE to use your swimming skills to get to the chest, but it's not just color to get the stuff in the chest. You don't HAVE to get advantage from climbing to a higher point over your foe, but gaining advantage has mechanical benefits that are not just color. I am really having trouble understanding your point here...how are any of these things different from any other things in the game?


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.

Yes and the guy with the skill gets over the pit, with a rope, as I already described, which helps the others get over the pit. It's not the only way to do it in the game, but it's one good way to do it. Sort of like every other ability in the game.

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.

And I could say the same for those other skills. And?

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.

You're entirely alone so far in that opinion on Athletics and Acrobatics. Which is fine, but you declaring them D-ranked in that factual tone seems dubious. The overwhelming majority of players seem to view this differently - which tells me perhaps they're not just color.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
[MENTION=2067]Kamikaze Midget[/MENTION]
Well, from the perspective of the entire party ALL skill are just color.

Example: Perception allows you to sense an ambush to avoid being surprised, or discover a secret door leading to bonus encounters/treasure. Neither avoiding surprise nor the bonus encounters/treasure are "necessary" to the adventure arc. Likewise, Athletics can be used to climb after the thief to encounter him without backup, get to a hard to reach perch to fire arrows, or swim to the bottom of a lake to gain a sunken treasure.

Ah, but the big difference here is that perception is a necessary antidote to an enemy's power -- if you DON'T have it, you might experience some penalty in any given session, because possible surprise is something that is present in almost every combat. Loss aversion!

Athletics/Acrobatics doesn't penalize you much if you can't do it (there's usually other ways to get your goal, and you're not going to take damage from NOT jumping around on rooftops), and it relies on DMs giving you special hooks to slot your skill check into. Two strikes!

Also, going a bit deeper, I think you've grouped skills into two distinct categories:"Plot changing/scene framing" and "useless color", or something along those lines. Could you articulate this more clearly?

The basic criteria I used (in no particular order) were:
  • Ability to control the skill's use as a player (active skills like Persuasion trump reactive skills like Insight)
  • Ability of the skill's success to be shared with the party (skills that allow you to share success, like Arcana, trump skills that are individual, like Slieght of Hand)
  • Redundancy with a higher-ranked skill (skills that duplicate effects that more useful skills can do rank lower, like Intimidation duplicating the effects of Persuasion or Deception)
  • Ability to accomplish broad goals in and of themselves (so "I want to figure out what this magic thing does" outranks "I endure a day without rations")
  • Interaction with other game elements and frequency/impact of those elements (Perception interacts with Surprise, which comes up every combat and might save your life, but Performance is pretty much by itself)
  • Negative consequences for the party as a result of a failed check (Don't make your Perception check, suddenly the healer must heal faster and the fighter might go down faster; don't make your History check, you can go consult a library or somethin').

Acrobatics/Athletics only come up with the DM puts something there for them to do (a pit or a tightrope), don't really interact with other game elements (damage if you fall, otherwise not much), have little in the way of negative party consequences (maybe you'll have to rest a bit sooner if someone takes a bad fall, but there's little reason not to rest whenever you want anyway if you aren't currently in a fight), cannot accomplish large goals by themselves (it'll take MULTIPLE checks to do much of anything of long-term significance), and are "selfish" in that they don't help the party with a success (congrats, you're over the pit, now about Tordek in his full plate...). They aren't very redundant, which is why they're high-ranked in the D-list, but their specialness depends on the DM making special accommodations for them, and in that respect they're not much better than Sleight of Hand or Performance.

Mistwell said:
I am really having trouble understanding your point here...how are any of these things different from any other things in the game?

Your character goes on if you don't swim to get the chest, but she doesn't if you get surprised and then critted

Mistwell said:
Yes and the guy with the skill gets over the pit, with a rope, as I already described, which helps the others get over the pit. It's not the only way to do it in the game, but it's one good way to do it. Sort of like every other ability in the game.

So lets all use a rope (maybe with a grapple or a crossbow bolt) and spend that skill proficiency on something that you can't duplicate with clever equipment choices.

Mistwell said:
You're entirely alone so far in that opinion on Athletics and Acrobatics. Which is fine, but you declaring them D-ranked in that factual tone seems dubious. The overwhelming majority of players seem to view this differently - which tells me perhaps they're not just color.

It just tells me that color is really valuable to some people. Valuable enough that they'll defend the color skills simply on the basis of personal affection for them. It doesn't matter if Athletics/Acrobatics doesn't do much, people really like picking them and putting them on their character sheet because it is empowering and helps define their character as a competent, powerful person. The fact that 3 GP (28 if you want a climber's kit, too) could make the skill redundant in some situations doesn't matter as much as the ability to look at your character sheet and say, "My character is Acrobatic! I am going to do backflips!" Maybe if Sleight of Hand was rolled into a more characteristic skill like "Ninja Hands" we'd see people valuing it much more highly.

Color's valuable. It's just not very functional. My list was targeted at a fairly functional ranking.

But of course it's just my list.
 
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Andor

First Post
KM your arguments about skills seem to flow from your belief that a GM cannot allow his players to fail at any task either singly or collectively. I've seen that kind of game but I don't really care for it either to run or to play in. YMMV.

Heroes can screw up, bad guys can win. If not, why even bother getting out of bed?

If the heroes don't catch the thief it might mean the heroes can track him down in his lair later. Or it might mean he delivers the macguffin to the cultists and the midnight ritual summons Golgorath the devourer of cities while the PCs are in the tavern congratulating themselves on how clever they were not to have chased that thief across the slippery rooftops.
 

keterys

First Post
Feels like Acrobatics, Athletics, and Investigation are being underrated by several posters.

Insight appears fairly overrated. Much like all of the "talky" skills, you really only need a couple people to handle it, and frankly I've found Insight incredibly unreliable. Maybe it's a DM problem, or an adventure design problem, but there ya go.

Depending on the game, Arcana might be extra strong too.

Other than that, largely agree with the ratings.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Kamikaze Midget said:
The basic criteria I used (in no particular order) were:
  • Ability to control the skill's use as a player (active skills like Persuasion trump reactive skills like Insight)
  • Ability of the skill's success to be shared with the party (skills that allow you to share success, like Arcana, trump skills that are individual, like Slieght of Hand)
  • Redundancy with a higher-ranked skill (skills that duplicate effects that more useful skills can do rank lower, like Intimidation duplicating the effects of Persuasion or Deception)
  • Ability to accomplish broad goals in and of themselves (so "I want to figure out what this magic thing does" outranks "I endure a day without rations")
  • Interaction with other game elements and frequency/impact of those elements (Perception interacts with Surprise, which comes up every combat and might save your life, but Performance is pretty much by itself)
  • Negative consequences for the party as a result of a failed check (Don't make your Perception check, suddenly the healer must heal faster and the fighter might go down faster; don't make your History check, you can go consult a library or somethin').

Acrobatics/Athletics only come up with the DM puts something there for them to do (a pit or a tightrope), don't really interact with other game elements (damage if you fall, otherwise not much), have little in the way of negative party consequences (maybe you'll have to rest a bit sooner if someone takes a bad fall, but there's little reason not to rest whenever you want anyway if you aren't currently in a fight), cannot accomplish large goals by themselves (it'll take MULTIPLE checks to do much of anything of long-term significance), and are "selfish" in that they don't help the party with a success (congrats, you're over the pit, now about Tordek in his full plate...). They aren't very redundant, which is why they're high-ranked in the D-list, but their specialness depends on the DM making special accommodations for them, and in that respect they're not much better than Sleight of Hand or Performance.

Thats a great set of criteria! :)

I re-read the Basic rules on surprise, because they way you were talking about them made me think of BD&D Rles Cyclopedia where there's always a chance of surprise, even unintentionally. However, that's not the case in the 5e Basic PDF...

The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other.

I would argue that the awesomeness of Perception depends on how an individual DM interprets this bit about surprise, and whether the campaign style involves lots of sneaking monsters. Certainly a dungeon crawl might, but there are many modes of "standard D&D" that would not involve sneaking monsters. IOW it's also a circumstantial skill.

Anyhow, one skill I'm interested in examining in this edition is Insight...

Insight:Your Wisdom (Insight) check determines whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone's next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms.

Many players I've gamed with have used Insight as a lie detector, both when I DM and when I'm just another player (so I know I'm not wholly to blame for a cocked up DMing style ;) ). Personally, I hate it when players do that because there's no pathos, nothing of interest, just this binary view of motivation and some kind of "D&D NPC questioning protocol" that seems severely pathological. :) Not that I have strong feelings about this...

What do you think?
 
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Starfox

Adventurer
Acrobatics - B
Animal Handling - C
Arcana - B
Athletics - C
Deception - B
History - B
Insight - B
Intimidation - C
Investigation - C
Medicine - D
Nature - C
Perception - A+
Performance - C - my players love this
Persuasion - B
Religion - C
Sleight of Hand - D
Stealth - B
Survival - C

The one I dislike is Perception, because it is too important. I like the introduction of the investigation skill. Even so, Perception is too important, especially if you use individual surprise.

In Maid (yes, that is a RPG), there is no perception skill. Our solution there is to use whatever ability governs the situation also govern perception - against a physical surprise (ambush) you roll Athletics or Cunning (the same rolls used for stealth), against a mechanical trap use Skill (the attribute governing objects), and so on.
 
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Essenti

Explorer
Athletics and Acrobatics do appear a bit undervalued in this thread. They are the primary skills used in grappling. The rules for grappling are fairly simple and not immensely over powered in 5e, with bounded accuracy in place. I hope to see them get used more in our game play, but it hasn't happened much, yet. I hope that they are utilized in more maneuvers in the PHB or DMG.

Perception as a skill does seem overly strong, and I think few PCs go without it as a proficiency. But for those that don't, it can provide an interesting experience... being "that guy" that always seems to be the last one to know what is going on, could be fun to role play.
 

Oldtimer

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

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

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

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 afraid not. These things are listed under the subheading "Other Strength Checks", not under the subheading "Athletics". Not all ability checks are related to a skill in 5E.
 

I know 4e's skills, and they infrastructure within which they are used, don't map extremely well to 5e but I figured I'd include some data from my PBP on here. Interesting to look at if nothing else.

There are some things of note that will skew the results considerably in favor of some skills over others. Those are:

1) This is a single player game (but with a companion bear for some of it and now a companion assault team - swarm). All of the below checks are solely for player controlled characters. If this included NPCs, Athletics and Acrobatics would jump up a bit due to their combat use (my combats, and 4e combats generally, involve a decent bit of physical checks).

2) The single character is a Fighter with Nature Rituals, a History reroll utility, an Athletics utility (combat and noncombat application), and a broad swath of competency across all skills but the Charisma skills.

3) Play is heavily on exploration challenges/adversity and has only included 1 full parlay SC and 1 interrogation that was part of a greater challenge.

I should note, this data is not representative of my home games. In my home games, I would soundly rank Arcana, Athletics, Insight, Nature, and Perception as, by a far margin, the most potent and most broadly used/applicable skills - so I guess A. Acrobatics (stunting, grapple checks, and all of its typical stuff), Dip/Intim are about split, Endurance (due to required exposure checks/hazard contermeasures, Disease Track checks, and Group Checks), Stealth, Streetwise, and Thievery are a tier below those - so I guess B. Everything else is probably C or situationally B. The only skill that doesn't get a ton of play in my home game is Heal. It is basically used for forensic investigation, kissing NPC boo-boos (figuratively), and subbing in for Endurance checks on the Disease Track (when the caretakers Heal is better).

Without further ado, the aforementioned PBP data:

SKILLPASSIVETASK/RITUAL/COMBATGROUPSC
Acrobatics
2
3
Arcana


2
Athletics
7
6
Bluff


1
Diplomacy


1
Dungeoneering


2
Endurance
311
Heal


3
History


2
Insight1

2
Intimidate


4
Nature
5
4
Perception52
2
Religion


1
Stealth
1
3
Streetwise


1
Thievery
1
1
EDIT - Didn't include Nature as top tier in my home game.
 
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Crothian

First Post
From the sound of it there are no worthless skills just DMs that make some skills worthless. The DM has a lot of power in the game and can make anything worthless if they want to or use house rules and play styles that marginalize parts of the game in ways they might not fully comprehend.
 

evilbob

Explorer
Pretty late to this show, but personally, I think many of the skills can be combined with no ill effect. Animal Handling, Nature, Medicine, and Survival can all be rolled into one skill EASILY. Sleight of Hand can be rolled into Deception. Perception and Investigation can be one skill. Even Athletics and Acrobatics can be one skill; you just need to use different abilities when you use it.

The skill list seems so strange to me because several skills are basically the same thing, but with different abilities behind them. Like Deception and Sleight of Hand; why not just have Deception (Dex)? There was no other reason to separate these skills, other than the idea that they wanted you to usually use one ability with one skill. On the other hand, you have Religion - Int, vs. Nature - Int and Survival - Wis. Following that pattern, there should have been some kind of Religion - Wis, but they didn't split that one.

I really dislike the idea that all skills have only one ability tied to them - Intimidation can be Str, dang it! Stealth can be Cha, dang it! - but I'm glad they called that out in the rules as being completely cool. And honestly, after seeing character creation, I understand that they wanted to make them SIMPLE to use; it's much easier to just write "Stealth - X" instead of "Stealth, if Dex, X, if Cha, Y." Too many things to keep up with.

Anyway, as for ranking, sadly like all other versions of D&D, the ranking is:
Perception - A+
all other skills - whatever

You can make a case for Stealth but seriously, Perception is insanely useful.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I'm afraid not. These things are listed under the subheading "Other Strength Checks", not under the subheading "Athletics". Not all ability checks are related to a skill in 5E.

Ah, you are correct, I misread that. My bad, and I apologize. Should have read it more carefully.
 

Greg K

Legend
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.

Agreed. I have two female friends that only date musicians (for one it is specifically, drummers) and artists. I have known a few others that have said the ability to sing, play an instrument, or create a drawing or painting was a plus if the guy had a good personality to go along with it. I don't see why this could not carry over to a fantasy world where being proficient in a skill or tool and successful check might not give advantage on persuasion or deception to get closer to an NPC. Similarly, lacking proficiency in the skill or tool, might lead to disadvantage in trying to get closer.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I would argue that the awesomeness of Perception depends on how an individual DM interprets this bit about surprise, and whether the campaign style involves lots of sneaking monsters. Certainly a dungeon crawl might, but there are many modes of "standard D&D" that would not involve sneaking monsters. IOW it's also a circumstantial skill.

Perhaps. I just think there's so MANY sneaky monsters in D&D (monsters that lurk in darkness, monsters that look like other things, monsters that blend into stone, monsters that sneak just like a thief -- check out how many monsters from the 1e MM modify surprise rolls or otherwise surprise characters!) that there's a high probability of encountering one in "normal play" (whatever that is). Even games of intrigue with humans involve assassins and poisons and traps and ambushes. And the consequences of failing a Perception check, especially at low levels, might be "Death." That's a lot of variables you're taking into your hands when you don't choose Perception proficiency.

I could see games that don't use it very often, but I don't know that those games are very common.

What would be interesting is to log each d20 roll made during a D&D game, what kind of roll it is, what its agency is, and the ultimate narrative effect of each roll. So you'd have, like, Perception Roll/Reactive/Success/Was not surprised; Wisdom Save/Reactive/Failure/Got Charmed for 1 rd; Acrobatics Check/Active/Success/Caught a Thief; etc.

Insight:Your Wisdom (Insight) check determines whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone's next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms.

Many players I've gamed with have used Insight as a lie detector, both when I DM and when I'm just another player (so I know I'm not wholly to blame for a cocked up DMing style ;) ). Personally, I hate it when players do that because there's no pathos, nothing of interest, just this binary view of motivation and some kind of "D&D NPC questioning protocol" that seems severely pathological. :) Not that I have strong feelings about this...

What do you think?

I think that's true -- players use it to confirm or deny their suspicions that an NPC is lying. Lying NPC's also often come across in NPC dialogue or DM body language as she's performing the role, and the effect of a lying NPC is often just "it's a different kind of challenge," so its vitality isn't what it could be. But it's got a use that's pretty unique.

As far as it being unsatisfying...there's probably a few ways to modify it that'll make it a little more satisfying.

First is the idea that Insight isn't a line-item check. You can't tell which statements are true and which are false, all you know is that the NPC is being deceptive and evasive and you probably shouldn't take her at her word. It's a reason not to trust, not a disproof of what she's saying.

Another idea would be to put it behind a DM Gate to link it to the world a little better. In most cases, you can't make a Perception(ed: INSIGHT! Derp) check UNLESS your characters notice something "off" (such as an inconsistency or a nervous demeanor). Players must pay attention to your RP to note this, so a DM should be confident in their ability to RP some dishonesty. There essentially has to be some REASON you're making the Insight check, some bit of the character's demeanor you're trying to parse. You can't just make one on every character you're talking to.
 
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Starfox

Adventurer
In most cases, you can't make a Perception check UNLESS your characters notice something "off" (such as an inconsistency or a nervous demeanor).

Investigations, sense motive, whatever you call it, is exactly that ability to notice something off. Asking for a check against every NPC is no more strange than using Perception at every cross-section. Its a matter of where the character's area of expertise ends and the player's begins. In old-school gaming, there is no Investigation skill; It is up to the players to believe or disbelieve. In later version and play-styles, the character's capability is just as important as the player's.

That said, I feel that if my players ask for a check, that means their characters are suspicious. If I did my acting right as GM, nobody will ask for a check, and they generally won't get one either.

Edit: A problem in these situations is that there is no "detect truth" DC. If an NPC is NOT lying, it makes no sense to roll against that NPC's Bluff skill. Or perhaps it does - a "cry wolf" NPC with a high bluf might be less able to tell the truth in a transparent manner...
 

sidonunspa

First Post
Investigation - D
Why is this a separate skill?

BBC Sherlock Homes

Smartest cat on the block with the wisdom of a base jumper....

Able to notice things with his intellect, pick apart a room, see that the man killed was left handed though, apparently, he killed him self with a hand cross bow using his right hand. Able to look at a room and see that the criminal HAD to come though the windows because the locks where picked from the inside.

Perception sees things that are hidden, while Investigation sees things in plane sight that may have significance.

the quality of this skill falls 100% in the hands of how good your GM is
 
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sidonunspa

First Post
I really dislike the idea that all skills have only one ability tied to them - Intimidation can be Str, dang it! Stealth can be Cha, dang it! - but I'm glad they called that out in the rules as being completely cool. And honestly, after seeing character creation, I understand that they wanted to make them SIMPLE to use; it's much easier to just write "Stealth - X" instead of "Stealth, if Dex, X, if Cha, Y." Too many things to keep up with.

You would be shocked to see how hard it is to get players to think outside the box with Skill/Attribute combinations...

heck it's hard to get writers to keep that in mind.

when I wrote the skill system for Arcanis I specifically used this concept (I called it dynamic skills) and even gave examples within each skill using different attributes (Such as Athletics (Cha) to "fake a guard out" as you attempt to run past them)
 

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