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5E Professions in 5e

Parmandur

Legend
Like @Fenris-77 I'm in a similar position, at least as to having played a lot of 3.x, skipping 4E, then jumping into 5E. There were some things that wrong-footed me about 5E at first, but it fell into place pretty quickly, but it's possible that my time playing and running Fate helped me figure out some of the stuff going on in and around Backgrounds in 5E. Also, I've never been afraid to tinker in the rules, and 5E has a lot of space in which to tinker.
I think using the "Background Skills" alternate system comes pretty close to just being polyhedral Fate, in some big ways. The OSR movement was also a big influence, methinks...
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think using the "Background Skills" alternate system comes pretty close to just being polyhedral Fate, in some big ways. The OSR movement was also a big influence, methinks...
The various alternative skills systems do seem to reflect heavy influence from Fate (and Fate Accelerated, if I remember correctly). I wasn't paying enough attention while OSR was doing its movement thing to have any opinion on OSR's influence on 5E (but you're not the first I've seen suggest it, and given my understanding of the design goals it seems plausible on its face).
 

Parmandur

Legend
The various alternative skills systems do seem to reflect heavy influence from Fate (and Fate Accelerated, if I remember correctly). I wasn't paying enough attention while OSR was doing its movement thing to have any opinion on OSR's influence on 5E (but you're not the first I've seen suggest it, and given my understanding of the design goals it seems plausible on its face).
One of the more successful OSR games, Castles & Crusades, was a d20 3.x variant that removed the Skill systt entirely and made all action resolution Ability Checks adjudicated by the DM. This was roughly the whole OSR approach, which was to roll RPG gameplay to a pre-2E style while keeping some newer stuff that was liked.

5E didn't go all out like that, but they learned and iterated...
 

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?
You can learn new skills during your downtime. I wish there was a little more official guidance on it, but my table just has crafting become cheaper and faster as you get more proficient, languages get more reliably translated/spoken, and weapon skills are learned for each individual weapon (not the entire class of weapons).
 

I'm just trying to wrap my mind around a very different mindset of D&D.

So, for example, if it's someone's background, letting them add their proficiency bonus to related tasks/knowledge from their background (that aren't already covered by other skills/proficiencies)?

Maybe letting players learn a profession (equivalent ability to being able to doing the checks with their background) with the same time/training rules for learning a language or a proficiency in a set of tools?

Like with my soldiering example, if it wasn't their background, but if during the campaign if someone spends 250 days in a regular army, let them gain essentially "proficiency" with soldiering and be able to use their proficiency bonus on appropriate checks?
Yep!
 

This is one reason to use a ruling for the table in question. I look at 250 days, and think that's incredibly short for that kind of effort. In the real world, it takes three years to get through law school, and more to get on the job experience to fully fill out what I'd call "professional level proficiency." And, I'd have to ask - if it takes less than a year, why doesn't just about everyone of any wealth have it? But that's me, not Jester.
I agree with you, however, if the PC was focused on a very narrow aspect of the law -- say inheritance issues, it would make more sense. Then, if they also wanted to be proficient in real estate laws, they would have to focus on that aspect.
 

In the real world, learning the profession of being a Soldier takes a few months, same for being a police officer. You can learn a lot in a few months of downtime.

D&D games I've played in have often had weeks or months of downtimes between adventures, especially between plot arcs.

Maybe they decide to take some downtime while their Cleric is working on crafting some big important magic item they need and spent several quests getting all the components for, and right as he was finishing up with that, his Church decides to send him on a retreat to a monastery that will also take months and in that time he lives cloistered off in the mountains and essentially gains the hermit profession. . .

The fighter the party got conscripted into the Royal Army, and there's a year long gap of his conscription before he's available for adventuring again, and in that time he learns soldiering.

The party wizard from a hermit background decides to join mainstream wizard society and joins a college of wizardry and enters academia. . .and he's essentially learning the Sage profession.

The party thief from a charlatan's background decides he's actually pretty dang good with crafting and figures he'll try his hand at honest labor with a crafting guild. . .and picks up the Guild Artisan profession.

Then, a year later when the Cleric has finished his crafting and pilgrimage, the fighter's conscription in the army is ending, the wizard now has a minor faculty position at the college and is now eligible to take a sabbatical to go on some more adventures, the thief is now a recognized journeyman and is free to travel to other masters to learn from (which means he can also meet up with his old buddies). . .and after a year apart and learning and having their own adventures they have each learned a new profession, but are now back together and able to adventure again.
In my game, we earn 10 days of downtime after every adventure, but it doesn't need to be spent at that time. New characters do not gain the same downtime as everybody else has, but anybody who wants/needs more downtime has to roll to see if it gets granted or if they have an unexpected encounter instead. (If the party is only stopping in a town for two nights, I don't count that as downtime, since they are just resupplying.)

Yes, that means players have to keep track of both downtime and training, but it isn't that hard. They just jot it down on the same sheet they track XP on.
 

Yeah. When I said I could see it being reasonable, I had in mind a game with adequate downtime for it to work. My games haven't worked out that way, but others' games can differ.
That's why we split the training progression into 5 sections. You gradually gain proficiency; it doesn't happen all at once. And if you are using it in the field, that counts toward training time as well, although not as much as a full day of training.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I agree with you, however, if the PC was focused on a very narrow aspect of the law -- say inheritance issues, it would make more sense. Then, if they also wanted to be proficient in real estate laws, they would have to focus on that aspect.
If the PC wanted to focus on a very narrow aspect of the law... I'd remind them that we aren't playing Lawyers and Litigations.
 



Except in 5e, the skill system is so broad that a single skill often covers things that would be 2 or 3 skills in other editions of D&D. If Athletics can cover swimming, climbing and jumping. . .if proficiency with Thieves's Tools can cover picking locks and disarming traps. . .if Arcana can cover both knowledge of magic and other planes of existence. . .if Stealth can cover both hiding and moving silently. . .there can be a single proficiency for the various professional knowledge of a field that isn't covered by other things and might fall under multiple similarly related fields of knowledge.


Except, as I've pointed out repeatedly, there's no option, in the RAW, to learn or gain another set of professional knowledge. The idea that once you've learned your initial trade before your adventuring life, and this is the ONLY profession you can know seems rather limited.

Backgrounds DID emerge into d20 in the 3e era, they were originally from d20 Modern, but they weren't meant to be the ONLY thing a character could do as a trade or occupation, they were packages of background abilities to reflect learning and experiences that happened before the adventuring life.

5e didn't invent the backgrounds system, it just imported it from another source into D&D.

Backgrounds are something I don't mind about 5e at all. I'd often toyed with the idea of introducing them into my 3.5 games by adapting the ones from d20 Modern/Urban Arcana. The idea that someone's background is the ONLY profession they know how to do, and the only one they can ever learn, that is the part that's bothering me as a limitation on the system.
Yes there is. It is in the Downtime Activities. Admittedly, it is pretty vague, but it is still there.
 



Ashrym

Hero
One of the complaint that was made in this thread was that a lawyer character built this way would be equally good at estimating the likely outcome of a trial based on precedent (INT+history) and at remembering the list of the Roman emperors, and he'd mechanically need to be a very good haggler (CHA+persuasion) as a side effect of him presenting a case in front of a judge. I think having him be proficient in tne tools of the lawyers resolve that problem (as it narrows the proficiency to a specific field while broadening it to several key "skills").
I would say that's because adventurers learn a broader scope in order to adventure instead of learning a limited scope to spend all their time in a court of law. If you want to have that limited scope then use the background proficiency option because then it would relate directly to legal history. It's still simple and doable.
 

wingsandsword

Adventurer
So, from what people are saying and what I'm reading, maybe the best way to handle more professions in 5e is to expand the list of tool proficiences and be a little more open minded and flexible about what constitutes a toolkit.

So, for my Soldier example, a "Soldier's Tools" which would be things like a uniform, rank insignia, standard or guidon, regulations. . .things a Soldier might be issued or carry other than weapons, armor and camping supplies, and that proficiency with those items would be the game system's way of saying someone would have the core skill-set of a soldier.

Or Farmer's tools of a hoe, shovel, plow, wheelbarrow, seed bag etc. being for a farmer.

Or Lawyer's tools being a collection of law books.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Adding to the tool proficiencies is a fine way to expand professions. That said, in any given case if you get a little tremor of doubt about the 'tool-ness' I'd go another way. Personally, in those cases I'd just count the background name as a non-ability-indexed skill that can be rolled like any other skill. So the character with the Soldier backgound has the skill Soldier in which he is proficient (roll plus stat applicable to specific task). In cases where the background isn't specific enough, I'd just name the skill after the profession. So you scholar background character who's a lawyer gets the Lawyer skill instead of one called scholar. I use those two examples because I think they both escape the usefulness of tools as a defining aspect of the job. Any profession should be covered by one or the other of a tool or skill IMO.

In cases where the profession skill might heavily overlap with an extant skill, say Lawyer and History for something to do with legal history I'd allow advantage on the roll. That gets a little bit trickier to adjudicate for something physical and combat related like Soldier, but even then I can think of examples, like giving advantage on deception checks to pass as a soldier, or advantage on attempts to persuade a soldier of something.
 

If you're dead set on keeping professions as a formalized part of the game with very strict rules, yeah I guess that would be the way to go.
Honestly, I'd try to play the game without changes (or with minor changes) to begin with, and then add/change things to fit your group. In actual play, you might find they aren't really missing as much as it may seem on the surface.
Also an important point, how does the rest of your group feel about the "missing" professions? If they feel it is a big problem, then use this fix for it. If it doesn't bother them, then save yourself the worry and trouble of making a new system for professions and just run it as is.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So, from what people are saying and what I'm reading, maybe the best way to handle more professions in 5e is to expand the list of tool proficiences and be a little more open minded and flexible about what constitutes a toolkit.

So, for my Soldier example, a "Soldier's Tools" which would be things like a uniform, rank insignia, standard or guidon, regulations. . .things a Soldier might be issued or carry other than weapons, armor and camping supplies, and that proficiency with those items would be the game system's way of saying someone would have the core skill-set of a soldier.

Or Farmer's tools of a hoe, shovel, plow, wheelbarrow, seed bag etc. being for a farmer.

Or Lawyer's tools being a collection of law books.
That would be a way to do it, yes. If you look in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, there are example of things (with DCs) one can do with tool proficiencies. It's worth looking at, especially if you're looking to add tools, just as a slightly different perspective on them.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
In cases where the profession skill might heavily overlap with an extant skill, say Lawyer and History for something to do with legal history I'd allow advantage on the roll. That gets a little bit trickier to adjudicate for something physical and combat related like Soldier, but even then I can think of examples, like giving advantage on deception checks to pass as a soldier, or advantage on attempts to persuade a soldier of something.
I think I'd just codify the Advantage thing to only apply to Ability Checks, to avoid the oddity of the Soldier and combat. If you're worried about in-combat things other than attack rolls, maybe limit it to out-of-combat--or unopposed, I guess, but that eliminates the benefits for your example of passing as a soldier.
 

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