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D&D 5E Proficiency vs. Ability vs. Expertise

Esker

Hero
Second Chance. If you miss with a melee attack, you can use your bonus action to make a second melee attack.

I mean that's almost identical to granting advantage. In some ways it's actually better, since you might already have advantage, in which case now you can use your bonus action to roll four dice. I guess the way it's worse is you can't use it to remove disadvantage, which rogues especially hate. (You probably want to call it something different, by the way, since there's a halfling racial feat called that already) I'd definitely take it, though.

Careful Strike. You can use your bonus action to add your DEX (or maybe INT?) modifier to damage with your weapon attacks until the end of your turn.

So this is basically giving them back what finesse already does, but making them use a bonus action to get the benefit? Eh.

What about something like:

Disarm: When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can use a bonus action to attempt to cause the creature to drop one item of your choice that it is holding. Make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check contested by the creature's athletics or acrobatics (their choice). If you succeed, the creature drops the item at its feet.

Well, the rogue only put in one ASI for STR (while the fighter did two) so the rogue will be benefiting to DEX or getting a feat or something else, and even without it would still only one point behind the much stronger fighter.

Yeah, but the fighter is going to put ASIs in strength anyway. Nobody in their right mind puts a precious ASI into a stat they don't use for anything except one kind of skill check.

And at this point consider what you would be looking at: one of the strongest poeople in the world, skilled at climbing, against another who has only average physical strength, skill at climbing, and some additional expertise.

It seems like you're focused on the fiction, whereas I'm focused on the game balance. What you're saying makes sense in simulationist terms, but in game terms, you're taking a distinctive feature away from a class, which is already perceived by most people as a bit on the weakish side, mechanically.

I suppose one way to look at is this: I am fine with ability score matching expertise. This would allow a rogue with no great strength enough skill to match an equally proficient super-strong character. That is why our current +5 max ability and +4 max expertise is close enough I am fine with it. With proficiency max at +8, expertise can still add an edge but not overwhelmingly so.

I mean, this is exactly what RAW does: expertise eventually adds +6, which is the gap between the lowest possible ability modifier (assuming standard generation methods) and the highest.

Well, with a 90% chance to not even allow the oni a chance to detect him, he is nearly always succeeding. Even if the oni is active and it is a contested roll, he still has over 80% chance of success, which is pretty darn good IMO.

Yes, it's good. It should be good! The rogue is an expert at sneaking around, having devoted a precious resource to getting that 80-90% chance of success (or more precisely, getting that chance of a catastrophic outcome down to 10-20%)! It just doesn't feel like you (or the DM of your group) are taking seriously the idea that (a) the rogue paid a lot (in opportunity cost) for the ability to do that, and (b) for it to be worthwhile to attempt something as dangerous as sneaking alone, you want to be pretty confident you're going to succeed!

Everyone should have some chance of doing really extraordinary things IMO, not just rogues (fine... and bards).

Sure, but being able to do extraordinary things achieved via skill checks are defining for those classes. Other classes have other kinds of extraordinary things they can do.

Yeah, actually a 5th-level fighter with +9 to me IS too much. I am not a fan of the 5E mentality of hitting-more-often-and-giving-things-tons-of-hit-points.

Okay, I can understand that position, but to fix that and retain game balance would take a wholesale overhaul of the monster manual. If you're not going to do that to address the fighter's "excessive" to-hit bonus (which I assume you're not), then at least recognize (and I think you at least somewhat do) that messing with expertise upsets the game balance just as much in its sphere.
 

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Except, and I've said this, nothing requires the rogue to have the fiction of extensive esoteric study to have the knowledge. They could be a street urchin with a hobbyist's interest and be just as good. 5e does not require fictional justification for class abilities. They just are, and you can flavor them as you want.
Re-flavoring is not a player option in 5E. That nonsense died with 4E, and good riddance. In 5E, the class abilities are a reflection of the narrative - the rogue is allowed to take expertise in a skill, because they are extensively trained in it; if they aren't extensively trained in that skill, then they aren't allowed to take expertise for that skill, and the DM is there to keep the player in line.

Likewise, if someone wants to play a character that doesn't fit an existing class, then the DM is free to develop a new class (or a mechanical modification to an existing class) in order to better fit the narrative reality.
Also, Arcana does cover the application of magic. If a players states an action involving manipulation of magic (like say, directing a Sphere of Annihilation, for a by the book direct example), what skill do you call for?
The best example I know of is with regards to magical traps. Arcana is the skill to detect and remove those, which seemed kind of weird to me (at first), but it's a perfect example of this sort of it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Re-flavoring is not a player option in 5E. That nonsense died with 4E, and good riddance. In 5E, the class abilities are a reflection of the narrative - the rogue is allowed to take expertise in a skill, because they are extensively trained in it; if they aren't extensively trained in that skill, then they aren't allowed to take expertise for that skill, and the DM is there to keep the player in line.

Likewise, if someone wants to play a character that doesn't fit an existing class, then the DM is free to develop a new class (or a mechanical modification to an existing class) in order to better fit the narrative reality.
I think that the DM has wide lattitude to allow reflavoring of anything in the books, so this statement is a bit off. If you mean the player doesn't have lattitude to reflavor their character build choices, perhaps, but I'd find a DM that doesn't allow that without good reason to be acting poorly. However, we've already gone around on this particular topic, and I see no real value in a rehash -- we're not going to agree.

And, that said, to address expertise -- there is no narrative associated with the expertise rule. There's nothing in the rogue general description or the Expertise class feature that says anything about advanced study or training. Expertise is entirely devoid of fictional anchoring. So, "reflavoring" doesn't really come into it; it has no flavor to begin with. It's a blank slate for flavoring to taste.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And, that said, to address expertise -- there is no narrative associated with the expertise rule. There's nothing in the rogue general description or the Expertise class feature that says anything about advanced study or training. Expertise is entirely devoid of fictional anchoring. So, "reflavoring" doesn't really come into it; it has no flavor to begin with. It's a blank slate for flavoring to taste.

That's not true. There is flavor associated with expertise. If you go to the rogue class it's the second section down and is called Skill and Precision. This is what it says about expertise.

"Rogues devote as much effort to mastering the use of a variety of skills as they do to perfecting their combat abilities, giving them a broad expertise that few other characters can match."

So the flavor is "devote much effort." There's nothing there about requiring training. The description of wizards and their devotion to learning spells and arcana dwarf "devote much effort," yet they don't have anything like expertise for the arcana skill.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Yeah, no. The DM really isn't there to tell the rogue he can't use Expertise on skill X because he DM doesn't like his story about it. That's goofy. If I decide my rogue is going to be a fancy magical expert then that's what he's going to be, no differently than a weapon style, preferred enemy, or whatever. And if how I chose to deploy that in-character is that he has a intuitive (but untrained!) mastery of the mechanics of magic, like some sort of savant, then that is also just kind of how it's going to be.

Maybe if there were a solid campaign related reason and the DM had predecided that expertise was out for that skill I'd be ok with it, but even then that would have been communicated differently. Session zero stuff is generally different.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, no. The DM really isn't there to tell the rogue he can't use Expertise on skill X because he DM doesn't like his story about it. That's goofy. If I decide my rogue is going to be a fancy magical expert then that's what he's going to be, no differently than a weapon style, preferred enemy, or whatever. And if how I chose to deploy that in-character is that he has a intuitive (but untrained!) mastery of the mechanics of magic, like some sort of savant, then that is also just kind of how it's going to be.

Maybe if there were a solid campaign related reason and the DM had predecided that expertise was out for that skill I'd be ok with it, but even then that would have been communicated differently. Session zero stuff is generally different.

Agreed. Heck, all Saelorn's players have to feed him is one line, "I devote much effort into mastering all my skills." and they've matched the flavor and can just increase whatever they want. The fluff is so loose that it's not even worth monitoring.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That's not true. There is flavor associated with expertise. If you go to the rogue class it's the second section down and is called Skill and Precision. This is what it says about expertise.

"Rogues devote as much effort to mastering the use of a variety of skills as they do to perfecting their combat abilities, giving them a broad expertise that few other characters can match."

So the flavor is "devote much effort." There's nothing there about requiring training. The description of wizards and their devotion to learning spells and arcana dwarf "devote much effort," yet they don't have anything like expertise for the arcana skill.

Ah, so, then according to this why isn't the rogue doubling their proficiency bonus for attacks, as they spend as much time perfecting their combat abilities as they do their skills?

I mean, selective bolding for the win, right?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, no. The DM really isn't there to tell the rogue he can't use Expertise on skill X because he DM doesn't like his story about it. That's goofy. If I decide my rogue is going to be a fancy magical expert then that's what he's going to be, no differently than a weapon style, preferred enemy, or whatever. And if how I chose to deploy that in-character is that he has a intuitive (but untrained!) mastery of the mechanics of magic, like some sort of savant, then that is also just kind of how it's going to be.

Maybe if there were a solid campaign related reason and the DM had predecided that expertise was out for that skill I'd be ok with it, but even then that would have been communicated differently. Session zero stuff is generally different.

Of course not. I don't pay any attention to it in my games, as my players build their backstory without my prompting and it works okay. I'm just pointing out that the rules create an oddity. It's good to know where the potholes are. How you drive around them (or if you just trust your suspension and tires and go through) is, absolutely, up to you.

It's the denying that the potholes exist that flabbergasts me.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Ah, so, then according to this why isn't the rogue doubling their proficiency bonus for attacks, as they spend as much time perfecting their combat abilities as they do their skills?

Because rules, man. That's the fluff explanation for the extra skill increase from expertise. Sense or no sense, it is what it is. You can take it or leave it, but it's not going away just because you bring up combat. Or you can just apply the combat portion to sneak attack and their other combat abilities that they get.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Of course not. I don't pay any attention to it in my games, as my players build their backstory without my prompting and it works okay. I'm just pointing out that the rules create an oddity. It's good to know where the potholes are. How you drive around them (or if you just trust your suspension and tires and go through) is, absolutely, up to you.

It's the denying that the potholes exist that flabbergasts me.
Oh, I agree, there's a pothole there big enough to rent out as a granny flat. The oddity in question isn't always bad mind you, just like most of 5e's grey areas it really only falls down when people start min-maxing it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that while Expertise can be a little wacky, it mostly functions (functions mostly?) as designed.
 

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