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5E Professions in 5e

wingsandsword

Adventurer
Okay, as I'm trying to learn 5e, and coming from a 2e and 3e heritage, I'm seeing a HUGE gap as I read through the Player's Handbook.

Are there no skills/proficiencies at all for a character to know a profession?

There is the short list of very broad skills for characters, and craft skills (and many thieving skills) seem to fall under proficiency with the tools of that trade. . but what about professions that aren't centered around a toolkit?

For example. . .

If a player or DM wanted a PC or NPC to be proficient with soldiering, to know how to function as a professional soldier, to know drill and ceremony, military procedure and bureaucracy, they had options in previous editions.

In 1st and 2nd edition, they could have a Soldiering Non-Weapon Proficiency or a Soldier Secondary Skill.

In 3rd/3.5 edition, that would fall under the Profession (Soldier) skill.

4th edition didn't have Profession skills because WotC infamously said they "weren't fun" and that any games using them weren't fun. That sort of attitude was on the long list of reasons I ignored 4e.

. . .but I'm looking at 5e and trying to see how this would have any sort of profession related skill. The closest I can see for my example is the Soldier background, but that doesn't give any special proficiency on any skills related to soldiering, and there's no way to gain anything like this after beginning the game. There's the training option for languages and tools, but that wouldn't cover a profession.

It seems like a gaping hole in the skills system. So, is there an option I'm overlooking? Is there some rule I'm missing?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You establish your character as a soldier prior to becoming an adventurer, possibly taking the Soldier background.

When you want to perform a task that has something to do with soldiery, you describe what you want to do, explaining with reasonable specificity that you're drawing on your training and experience as a soldier. The DM will then ask you to make an ability check, if there's an uncertain outcome to the task and a meaningful consequence for failure. He or she may grant you advantage to the roll (or lower the DC) if your approach to the goal is particularly suitable.
 

wingsandsword

Adventurer
You establish your character as a soldier prior to becoming an adventurer, possibly taking the Soldier background.

When you want to perform a task that has something to do with soldiery, you describe what you want to do, explaining with reasonable specificity that you're drawing on your training and experience as a soldier. The DM will then ask you to make an ability check, if there's an uncertain outcome to the task and a meaningful consequence for failure. He or she may grant you advantage to the roll (or lower the DC) if your approach to the goal is particularly suitable.
So, there's no rule really, just ad-hoc making it up?

Sounds like a monumental U-turn in game design compared to actually having a skill system that could handle things players wanted to do, instead of relying on arbitrary DM fiat for everything. I thought D&D had evolved beyond that.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Well, I guess it depends on whether or not you actually need a mechanic for that sort of thing or not. The combination of background and skill choice, especially with tools added in, gives some solid variety of professional type skills. Based on background, I would just allow the character to use backgrounds plus lifepath info essentially as tags that can be invoked to summon up knowledge that the character might possess that the player doesn't. Maybe based on an appropriate stat plus proficiency.

I don't personally think that 5e needs to devote design space to this sort of thing. Not every character has a 'profession' separate from their class, so the design space to add that in, but not for all characters, isn't immediately obvious. If you have a specific example that isn't covered by some combination of background and skills, and that example is important to the character concept and will also have an actual mechanical impact on play, I'd probably just create a new background feature to cover it and move on. In most cases I don't think that profession, separate from class, background and skills, is going to mechanically important on a regular basis, not regular enough to warrant additional rules anyway.
 

the Jester

Legend
There is the short list of very broad skills for characters, and craft skills (and many thieving skills) seem to fall under proficiency with the tools of that trade. . but what about professions that aren't centered around a toolkit?

For example. . .

If a player or DM wanted a PC or NPC to be proficient with soldiering, to know how to function as a professional soldier, to know drill and ceremony, military procedure and bureaucracy, they had options in previous editions.

In 1st and 2nd edition, they could have a Soldiering Non-Weapon Proficiency or a Soldier Secondary Skill.
Neither of these were a thing. Unless you inserted them as a DM... which you can certainly also do in 5e.

. . .but I'm looking at 5e and trying to see how this would have any sort of profession related skill. The closest I can see for my example is the Soldier background, but that doesn't give any special proficiency on any skills related to soldiering, and there's no way to gain anything like this after beginning the game.
It's simple- if a character makes a check, and you think his background should allow him his proficiency bonus, you let him use his proficiency bonus.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Sounds like a monumental U-turn in game design compared to actually having a skill system that could handle things players wanted to do, instead of relying on arbitrary DM fiat for everything. I thought D&D had evolved beyond that.
It's a feature IMO, not a bug. I don't need listed skills for farming, green grocing, candle making or double entry book keeping. At what point is the character going to have to test that skill in a way where the consequences actually matter? If they have a profession they know stuff about it, there doesn't need to be a rule or especially a roll.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So, there's no rule really, just ad-hoc making it up?

Sounds like a monumental U-turn in game design compared to actually having a skill system that could handle things players wanted to do, instead of relying on arbitrary DM fiat for everything. I thought D&D had evolved beyond that.
Players don't make "skill checks" in D&D 5e, nor should they want to since success is better than trusting a swingy d20 to see you through. Players describe what they want to do. The DM then decides if there's an ability check which may or may not have a skill proficiency that applies to the check, based on their stated approach to the goal. Once resolved, the DM then narrates the result of the adventurer's action.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The closest thing to "profession" proficiencies is the tool/vehicle proficiencies, which have options in Xanathar's Guide to Everything for using more broadly. I myself have used INT (Mason's tools or Carpenter's tools) to allow characters to figure out how to bring down a building, so there's room for creativity, here.
 

the Jester

Legend
So, there's no rule really, just ad-hoc making it up?

Sounds like a monumental U-turn in game design compared to actually having a skill system that could handle things players wanted to do, instead of relying on arbitrary DM fiat for everything. I thought D&D had evolved beyond that.
You're asking for a return to Many Fiddly Bits. Those Many Fiddly Bits, which really came into their own in 3e and 4e, didn't actually do much to improve the game compared to the cost of keeping track of those Many Bits.

Let me ask you- what rule do you actually need to adjudiate whether a soldier knows how to stand at attention or march in a parade? Can't you just assume that, yes, soldiers know that kind of thing?

5e is absolutely a game that puts rulings over rules in its design. I think this is a good thing, but I acknowledge that it's a matter of taste. But I have to say, I've been running D&D since 1981, and I can't recall one time ever where detailed profession rules (more detailed than "you can make x amount of money in y days") have ever come up in my game, unless you count the one time we used the rules for smelting ore in the 1e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. Nor can I think of one time when I thought, "Gosh, I wish I had more rules detailing how to use this profession!" Which isn't to say it can't happen; I just think that, even if it takes only a few lines of text, that design space would be better used on more equipment, another feat or spell, more details on languages, rules for illiteracy, etc.
 

wingsandsword

Adventurer
It's a feature IMO, not a bug. I don't need listed skills for farming, green grocing, candle making or double entry book keeping. At what point is the character going to have to test that skill in a way where the consequences actually matter? If they have a profession they know stuff about it, there doesn't need to be a rule or especially a roll.
A character might need to make a roll at a bookkeeping profession to see if records have been altered. . .or to alter records to cover up something. They might need to roll as a candlemaker to make a particularly high quality candle (like if they were helping a mage make a candle-based magic item like candle of invocation). They might need to roll as a farmer or green grocer if they were trying to help a farmer or grocer turn their business around and help them out by doing a very good job on the farm or at the store.

I'm just baffled, and more than a little frustrated, at the seeming lack of rules to D&D in this edition. I hear people praise it, I'm trying to learn it to give it a chance, but the more I dig into it, the more hollow and lacking it seems.

If there isn't a rule for it to quantify it, it doesn't exist in the game world. Points, scores, ranks, levels etc. are the basic nuts and bolts under which the game is built. A vague "describe it to the DM and roll" isn't a rule, it's barely a game.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
A character might need to make a roll at a bookkeeping profession to see if records have been altered. . .or to alter records to cover up something. They might need to roll as a candlemaker to make a particularly high quality candle (like if they were helping a mage make a candle-based magic item like candle of invocation). They might need to roll as a farmer or green grocer if they were trying to help a farmer or grocer turn their business around and help them out by doing a very good job on the farm or at the store.

I'm just baffled, and more than a little frustrated, at the seeming lack of rules to D&D in this edition. I hear people praise it, I'm trying to learn it to give it a chance, but the more I dig into it, the more hollow and lacking it seems.

If there isn't a rule for it to quantify it, it doesn't exist in the game world. Points, scores, ranks, levels etc. are the basic nuts and bolts under which the game is built. A vague "describe it to the DM and roll" isn't a rule, it's barely a game.
They don't though. There doesn't need to be a book keeping skill to adjudicate that action. The DM can easily handle that as an INT roll and manage the DC to reflect their character background. As for the Farmer example, why would you require a roll there? If the PC was a Farmer, great, he knows about farming and can help - I don't see the need for a roll at all. If you did require a roll, once again an ability check with an appropriate DC covers it just fine. This approach is flexible and actually better reflects the broad knowledge base that a character might have. The situations you describe simply aren't going to come up enough to warrant design space devoted to them, not when the basic ability roll and flexible DCs covers it just fine.
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
A helpful thought is that if the roll is routine (unopposed and not under stress) there's no need to roll. You can just decide, or you can compare to the passive score--which while not the exact same in the rules is pretty close to taking 10.

I can say that coming to 5E from Pathfinder was like a blast of fresh air. Everything was streamlined and somewhat simpler, but since I got my head around it 5E has persistently behaved the way I've expected it to (with occasional oddities), and playing 3-dot-Pathfinder at this point makes my head hurt.
 


wingsandsword

Adventurer
You're asking for a return to Many Fiddly Bits. Those Many Fiddly Bits, which really came into their own in 3e and 4e, didn't actually do much to improve the game compared to the cost of keeping track of those Many Bits.

Let me ask you- what rule do you actually need to adjudiate whether a soldier knows how to stand at attention or march in a parade? Can't you just assume that, yes, soldiers know that kind of thing?

5e is absolutely a game that puts rulings over rules in its design. I think this is a good thing, but I acknowledge that it's a matter of taste. But I have to say, I've been running D&D since 1981, and I can't recall one time ever where detailed profession rules (more detailed than "you can make x amount of money in y days") have ever come up in my game, unless you count the one time we used the rules for smelting ore in the 1e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. Nor can I think of one time when I thought, "Gosh, I wish I had more rules detailing how to use this profession!" Which isn't to say it can't happen; I just think that, even if it takes only a few lines of text, that design space would be better used on more equipment, another feat or spell, more details on languages, rules for illiteracy, etc.
As for when rolling for a Soldiering profession could make sense. . .

For how well someone could perform drill and ceremony maneuvers. From my own time in the Army, I know some Soldiers could barely do D&C, while others could do sharp, snappy, well timed moves that would look impressive. Or it could be for maneuvering through bureaucracy and paperwork, or knowing how to best address and deal with a superior, or how to maneuver armies on a large scale (do we really expect players to know army-scale strategy?) or recognizing rank insignia and symbols/heraldry of other armies.

I like the fiddly bits, the fiddly bits are the heart of the game as far as I'm concerned. D&D has always been about fiddly bits to me, from when I started playing in a 2e game that heavily used the Skills and Powers books to other 2e games that used kits, skills & powers, and a boatload of complex house rules and tables, to 3e and 3.5. A simplified D&D to me isn't a return to anything, it's just. . .D&D Minus.

I'm trying to learn this game, I'm trying to keep an open mind, I've bought the core 3 books and I'm trying to read through them, but this entire rules-light mindset is outright alien to me after 22 years of D&D.

It's absolutely nothing like any D&D I've ever seen before, except maybe the one game of Rules Cyclopedia Basic D&D I played circa 1999. . ..because one guy in our gaming group liked it from when he was a kid and we decided to play a one-shot of it to humor him. . .then the rest of us decided it was way too simple for any long-term campaign or serious gaming and we didn't play it anymore. It honestly reminds me of the rush on here a decade ago towards rules-light retroclones. . .which were a niche thing that some people liked but others found too lacking.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As for when rolling for a Soldiering profession could make sense. . .

For how well someone could perform drill and ceremony maneuvers. From my own time in the Army, I know some Soldiers could barely do D&C, while others could do sharp, snappy, well timed moves that would look impressive. Or it could be for maneuvering through bureaucracy and paperwork, or knowing how to best address and deal with a superior, or how to maneuver armies on a large scale (do we really expect players to know army-scale strategy?) or recognizing rank insignia and symbols/heraldry of other armies.
These could be a Charisma (Performance) check, Intelligence check, Charisma (Persuasion) check, Intelligence check, Intelligence (History) check, respectively, if there's an uncertain outcome for the task and a meaningful consequence for failure. If the player describes these in the context of drawing upon his or her background in a reasonable way, the DM might lower the DC or grant advantage. If there is no uncertain outcome for the task, perhaps because it's trivially easy or impossible, or there is no meaningful consequence for failure, then there is no roll - the DM just says if it's a success or failure.
 

the Jester

Legend
As for when rolling for a Soldiering profession could make sense. . .

For how well someone could perform drill and ceremony maneuvers.
I'm not saying that doesn't make sense. I'm saying that the 5e answer to that is, "Make a Dex or Cha check, and add your proficiency bonus if you are a soldier or trained in Performance."

I like the fiddly bits, the fiddly bits are the heart of the game as far as I'm concerned. D&D has always been about fiddly bits to me, from when I started playing in a 2e game that heavily used the Skills and Powers books to other 2e games that used kits, skills & powers, and a boatload of complex house rules and tables, to 3e and 3.5. A simplified D&D to me isn't a return to anything, it's just. . .D&D Minus.
Fair, but have you played it (D&D minus fiddly bits) for any length of time? You might find it liberating.

OTOH you might not.

Either way is fine. And if 5e as-is isn't to your taste, you can (of course) keep playing older editions, but on top of that, 5e is super easy to modify and tweak to fit to taste. In many cases, you can just straight up import old edition rules wholesale, with maybe some adjustments to DCs or the numbers due to bounded accuracy

I'm trying to learn this game, I'm trying to keep an open mind, I've bought the core 3 books and I'm trying to read through them, but this entire rules-light mindset is outright alien to me after 22 years of D&D.

It's absolutely nothing like any D&D I've ever seen before, except maybe the one game of Rules Cyclopedia Basic D&D I played circa 1999. . ..because one guy in our gaming group liked it from when he was a kid and we decided to play a one-shot of it to humor him. . .then the rest of us decided it was way too simple for any long-term campaign or serious gaming and we didn't play it anymore. It honestly reminds me of the rush on here a decade ago towards rules-light retroclones. . .which were a niche thing that some people liked but others found too lacking.
Again, that's fair. I think if you try 5e as is, and keep in mind that you can allow pcs to use their proficiency bonus whenever you feel it's appropriate, you'll find a degree of 'emergent complexity' that exceeds what you see on paper. But if you don't like its simplified nature, it is- again- pretty easy to tweak to fit your tastes. I've certainly made adjustments to suit my own playstyle preferences (good bye to all the "full recovery of everything on a long rest", for example).
 

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