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5E On meaningless restrictions

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The 4e DM's guide had great advice on house rules. To paraphrase it was: "Clearly Identify what it is you are trying to change with the house rule and why it needs changing. Will the house rule achieve your goal?"
Open up choices that are being restricted for no good reason.

I could be reading too much into OP's post, but it reads to me like he'd like to remove skill choice restrictions so that any class can specialize in any skill - presumably because he has a class idea that would need a different skill.
I think that's a decent summary. Though I do think toward the end you are presuming too much.

If I was a DM for a player asking this, I would instead make it an exceptional case if the player can give me a sufficiently compelling backstory to justify them being proficient with a few skills that they don't normally have. Then I'd roll it into a new background.
Why make him jump through hoops to play what he wants when you and I both know that whatever skills he ends up choosing isn't going to hurt anything.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
To be fair, this thread isn't just about class skill restrictions.

I see two camps of opposition to the idea
1. Removing any restriction is bad
2. Removing all restrictions is bad
I think you may have lost nuance.

Somewhere between removing the first restriction, and removing all restrictions, you are apt to see negative consequences. Therefore, in general, restrictions should be removed when it is fixing a particular problem seen in play.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
My first: a fighter that's a diplomatic spy. Important characteristics, talking to and reading other people to get what he wants. Being able to pick locks to see what people are hiding when he finds an opportune moment. He's a trained fighter as a last resort.

To me the most important skills for him would be:
Persuasion
Deception
Insight
Thieves Tools

And I know the accusation will be that this is a character that I designed to not work - but the thing is I can design 100's of such characters - and they are all characters I never think about because I know they won't work in the 5e system. So whatever inspiration I may have had is getting instantly filtered out.
While I see your point, I think part of the problem with 5E with such examples is expecting character concepts to be fully fleshed-out from level 1.

As for your example, there is nothing really contrived to not work in RAW. It could be accomplished with a Criminal (Spy), Courtier, and probably one or two others. Choosing variant human or half-elf for skills as well. And while you think of hims as a "fighter", at lower levels rogues "fight" just well.

A really good fit for your suggestion would be:

Urban bounty hunter grants Deception, Persuasion, and Thieves' Tools. The Ear to the Ground feature would be useful for a spy. For Fighter you choose Insight and then one other skill.

Pretty much if you are free in your choices of class/background/race, just about any concept can already be made IME. And as others have said, a good DM will always work with a player to make their character come to life.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think you may have lost nuance.

Somewhere between removing the first restriction, and removing all restrictions, you are apt to see negative consequences. Therefore, in general, restrictions should be removed when it is fixing a particular problem seen in play.
The premise here is fair. I tend to agree with it but I don't think the conclusion is necessary.

If instead it was - we need to be extremely careful about removing restrictions because doing so can lead unintentionally to very negative consequences. I unequivocally agree there.

I suppose what I'm saying though, is that in relation to this thread - any restriction removal that would lead to very negative consequences is a meaningful restriction. Which is where I believe the disconnect is?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
While I see your point, I think part of the problem with 5E with such examples is expecting character concepts to be fully fleshed-out from level 1.

As for your example, there is nothing really contrived to not work in RAW. It could be accomplished with a Criminal (Spy), Courtier, and probably one or two others. Choosing variant human or half-elf for skills as well. And while you think of hims as a "fighter", at lower levels rogues "fight" just well.

A really good fit for your suggestion would be:

Urban bounty hunter grants Deception, Persuasion, and Thieves' Tools. The Ear to the Ground feature would be useful for a spy. For Fighter you choose Insight and then one other skill.

Pretty much if you are free in your choices of class/background/race, just about any concept can already be made IME. And as others have said, a good DM will always work with a player to make their character come to life.
So now to play the concept I want, I must choose a particular race or get DM approval? The DM is going to approve anyways, why not just go ahead and pre-rule that it always will be?
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
So now to play the concept I want, I must choose a particular race or get DM approval? The DM is going to approve anyways, why not just go ahead and pre-rule that it always will be?
There is nothing to approve in this case. I gave you a background and class (which you chose) that meets the criteria for your character concept, independent of race.

If you intentionally try to come up with a wacky concept, that is different. Not everything will be approved by the DM. I've denied certain races, classes, and such in many games.

My point is that just about anything can already be made given the current system so changing it seems unnecessary. As I replied in an earlier post, other than a (very) slight nerf to Bards, allowing the other classes to choose any skill wouldn't hurt anything, either.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So now to play the concept I want, I must choose a particular race or get DM approval? The DM is going to approve anyways, why not just go ahead and pre-rule that it always will be?
Well this DM is going to ask about a backstory, because he's going to want to tie your character to the campaign and the setting, and there are a few races that don't exist and some (subclasses) the DM isn't allowing, so let's not just go ahead, eh? I mean, if you're playing in a campaign I'm running, you probably got a handout that explained some of the quirks of the setting.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Well this DM is going to ask about a backstory, because he's going to want to tie your character to the campaign and the setting, and there are a few races that don't exist and some (subclasses) the DM isn't allowing, so let's not just go ahead, eh? I mean, if you're playing in a campaign I'm running, you probably got a handout that explained some of the quirks of the setting.
WOW. Why are misconstruing what I am saying?
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
There is nothing to approve in this case. I gave you a background and class (which you chose) that meets the criteria for your character concept, independent of race.
Apologies, I had read the part where you mentioned human race and elf race and thought it applied.

If you intentionally try to come up with a wacky concept, that is different. Not everything will be approved by the DM. I've denied certain races, classes, and such in many games.
Yes, anything can be banned from a particular campaign for setting purposes I'm not sure how that relates to the discussion at hand. Do you somehow believe I'm arguing that can't be done????

My point is that just about anything can already be made given the current system so changing it seems unnecessary. As I replied in an earlier post, other than a (very) slight nerf to Bards, allowing the other classes to choose any skill wouldn't hurt anything, either.
Many things can be made under the current system. Not all. But I think your conclusion here is wrong. If nearly anything can already be made then opening up the few remaining choices that cannot will have no negative impact. What is necessary about maintaining the status quo?
 

ChaosOS

Hero
Supporter
Here's another one: Weapon proficiencies. I can't think of anything that would be broken by allowing all classes to have proficiency with simple and martial weapons. Weapon-using clerics would get slightly better, but they needed the buff anyway.

Re: The dominant argument. I'm inclined to agree with the position that 5e practically doesn't have class skill proficiencies, and the existing ones mostly just guide players into the class archetypes.

Now, for weapon proficiencies, as someone who's played a weapon cleric I disagree that they "need a buff". Cleric is solidly one of the strongest if not the strongest classes in 5e, and with Spiritual Weapon can keep up with most melee characters for DPR if the days stay on the shorter side (which I find is much, much more common than days that tend long and would drain spell slots). Combine that with the cleric's utility belt massive prepared list that's not even restricted by a spellbook, and you've got a class that already threatens real melee class niches.
 

HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
Why make him jump through hoops to play what he wants when you and I both know that whatever skills he ends up choosing isn't going to hurt anything.
Can you explain why you feel skill restrictions are meaningless? I'd actually say that they lose meaning if you remove the restriction, as then any class build can be good in any skill.

And I'd generally make a player justify a change to the rules because in my experience the reason they are asking is to overpower their character build compared to other players.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
You mentioned a non-standard idea, in some detail. Someone replied with a way to get there, making the point along the way that the concept you wanted was easy to make by RAW. You seemed to be jumping to the conclusion that the DM was going to automatically approve whatever variant you wanted to play.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Many things can be made under the current system. Not all. But I think your conclusion here is wrong. If nearly anything can already be made then opening up the few remaining choices that cannot will have no negative impact. What is necessary about maintaining the status quo?
In some ways momentum from previous editions, archetype definition, and its D&D so it has class based limits on a bunch of stuff.

For skills I'd think that not much would be hurt by saying every class can pick a fixed number of skills from the whole list, with backgrounds providing fix groupings, same as racial options.

I'd say pick three skill proficiency options as a base, so in theory the minimum number would be five total. Some classes might get more slots, the rogue and the bard for example might start with six and they could have a total of eight.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
So are people still unaware of the fact that the published Backgrounds are just suggestions and you can literally choose any two skills and two languages/tool proficiencies you want as part of your character's background? That is not some weird house-rule that requires special DM approval, that is literally straight out of the PHB.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Apologies, I had read the part where you mentioned human race and elf race and thought it applied.

Yes, anything can be banned from a particular campaign for setting purposes I'm not sure how that relates to the discussion at hand. Do you somehow believe I'm arguing that can't be done????

Many things can be made under the current system. Not all. But I think your conclusion here is wrong. If nearly anything can already be made then opening up the few remaining choices that cannot will have no negative impact. What is necessary about maintaining the status quo?
No worries. My point was because of those racial choices, even more freedom exists in getting skills you want that might not fit class or background.

My second point was simply not ever player will get to play what they want every time. That's all. But it does also go back to my earlier point about many players want their concepts ready to go out-of-the-gate. IMO that is rarely the case. 3-5 levels or more make the concept, if that makes sense. With your example, a fighter/rogue MC (if allowed at the table) would make the build very easy and maybe around 4th level the character really "fits" your mold,

Since I know (I think) some of your philosophy about classes and MCing, I believe removing restrictions is fine. I just don't see the need because I have yet to see a concept that couldn't be made RAW, given the freedom others have mentioned about customizing backgrounds and such.

Still, I understand your POV. If you can already make everything even given the restrictions, why bother having them, right? As some have pointed, the skill lists are useful guidelines, if nothing else, for newer players as well. Sort of like the suggested equipment listed for each class.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So are people still unaware of the fact that the published Backgrounds are just suggestions and you can literally choose any two skills and two languages/tool proficiencies you want as part of your character's background? That is not some weird house-rule that requires special DM approval, that is literally straight out of the PHB.
Apparently some are. I prefer for backgrounds to make some sense, and generally find that twisting a background in the PHB works well enough. Obviously, YMMV.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
Can you explain why you feel skill restrictions are meaningless? I'd actually say that they lose meaning if you remove the restriction, as then any class build can be good in any skill.

And I'd generally make a player justify a change to the rules because in my experience the reason they are asking is to overpower their character build compared to other players.
I think part of his argument is that the backgrounds system means you can pick any two skills in the game - so it's already true that any class can be good at any skill.

So restricting class skill choices isn't really preventing that. And if it's not being prevented, why have a rule in place to try to prevent it? The rule doesn't seem to be doing much else.

If I were to make the case for removing the restriction it would be this: the rule doesn't make the goal of the rule happen. So we should change something anyway: remove the ineffective rule, or change the other rule to allow the rule to be effective. I tend to err on the side of not having restrictions that aren't necessary, so that's where I'd vote, but reasonable people could argue the backgrounds should be more restricted.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think part of his argument is that the backgrounds system means you can pick any two skills in the game - so it's already true that any class can be good at any skill.

So restricting class skill choices isn't really preventing that. And if it's not being prevented, why have a rule in place to try to prevent it? The rule doesn't seem to be doing much else.

If I were to make the case for removing the restriction it would be this: the rule doesn't make the goal of the rule happen. So we should change something anyway: remove the ineffective rule, or change the other rule to allow the rule to be effective. I tend to err on the side of not having restrictions that aren't necessary, so that's where I'd vote, but reasonable people could argue the backgrounds should be more restricted.
That's a reasonable approach. I'd say that defining class skills still serves a purpose, and that even with backgrounds you're still probably not going to get a lot of skills that aren't on your class list (barring the Skilled Feat, which if you want it that badly then you can have it).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Something can be an arbitrary restriction from a fictional perspective and still have a reason for existing from a game balance perspective.

Consider that you've already accepted the argument on it's face by your admission that turning into a bird is okay to restrict to level 5+. Once you've done that you've accepted a purpose to such restrictions - even if you disagree about the exact level the restrictions get lifted.
I’ve done no such thing, and it is extremely rude to put words in someone’s mouth, so please refrain from that.

I proposed a compromise. There is no actual need for even a level 5 flight restriction, but I’d be willing to accept it for the sake of people who really hate low level flight. It would still very much be a meaningless restriction.
 

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