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

WaterRabbit

Explorer
So last night, we had another example of where the straight d20+mods >= DC produces results that don't align with expectations. DM has a series of carnival games where player rolls against STR or DEX based skills. The fighter and the monk each have between +5 to +9 on the checks. The cleric has +0 to +2 on the checks. Cleric wins all of the games including the opposed arm wrestling against said fighter and monk. Why, cleric rolls 18s or better for every roll and monk and fighter cannot get above a 10.

So even with a high modifier differential, the dice contribute much more than the abilities. So instead of games of skill, they all became games of chance.

The point of this: no matter how much one frets about ability, proficiency, expertise none of that matters when d20+mods >= DC is the core mechanic. A 2d10 mechanic would at least make the dice modifiers move the game toward skill trumps dice as the norm.

I am not suggesting this change for combat, just skill checks. Combat doesn't need as much bolstering as it involves much more than just a straight roll to influence outcomes and combat is a team endeavor (or should be) more than an individual one.
 

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DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
I mean, yes? That's the design of the class: they get spells that enhance their other abilities. And if you want an especially sneaky ranger, you have Gloomstalker, who become invisible in darkness. I could easily say, "Why should rangers have spells? That doesn't really make sense." But if you weaken the ranger's spellcasting ability, you're blowing a big hole in the class.

Sure, but in earlier editions Rangers didn't get spells until much later on. And spells are a limited resource so should never be taken into consideration IMO when comparing skills.

Well, ok, then you no longer have the perceived problem that wizards have no way to be as good at arcana as rogues who pick arcana, etc. Right? Why also mess with expertise itself?

Again, because the bonuses get too high in comparison to the DCs and such at those levels. A rogue, due to expertise, who nearly always succeeds at stealth kills reality and the game. That is why I am messing with expertise, and the house-rule is a band-aid fix at best just so at least other PCs and NPCs have a chance to compete.

A lot of those are a stretch and/or the classes you mention have features that enhance their abilities in those kinds of things that aren't bonuses to skill checks. Monks have slow fall and increased speed, for example; barbarians have advantage on strength checks while raging; warlocks and sorcerers (and wizards) have the friends cantrip and various spells with charm and fear effects; warlocks also have access to Mask of Many Faces; Clerics have Zone of Truth; wizards have divination spells; Barbarians already have Danger Sense (as you yourself pointed out).

Look, if you are going to redesign the classes from the ground up because you think there should be a tight connection between skill bonuses and the fiction, more power to you. But it's not fair to the rogue to single them out for their access to higher skill bonuses compared to other classes when other classes have different ways to get at similar results. And, you know what, any class is free to take a level of rogue for expertise if they think it's that great! It doesn't mean they have to become a scoundrel; it just means they're focusing on their skills at the expense of progressing in their other features.

Except characters who don't have a DEX 13 or better. Admittedly, many characters do since DEX is such a good stat, but still it means a restriction to get expertise. And still doesn't fix the issue of expertise taking numbers too high compared to what the challenges are.

So let's think about the tradeoffs here compared to the expertise feature. On the plus side for the rogue, they can gain expertise in any skill check -- not just those they picked for their character -- if they have the time to analyze the situation. One down side is they can no longer be experts at hiding in combat, which is pretty rough for certain builds, who basically require they be able to hide nearly at will, at least when the terrain supports it. Rogues can no longer be experts in acrobatics really, either, but you gave them the ability to make acrobatics checks as a bonus action, so I'm ok with that. Certain subclasses have features that allow them to do certain things using skill checks in combat: The Inquisitive's Insightful Fighting, the Swashbuckler's Panache, the Thief's Fast Hands, the Arcane Trickster's Mage Hand Legerdemain. But you could just give those subclasses (at least situational) expertise in their particular skills.

From a balance perspective, I think this comes close if you do something to address the hiding issue, and let subclasses get double proficiency in their sphere without needing a minute. But from a character design perspective, I don't like it as much as RAW, because it makes it harder to make one rogue distinct from another. In my regular home game, I play a rogue/wizard who is painfully awkward in social situations, but is really good at staying unnoticed, noticing things, figuring out situations, and knowing stuff about magic (she has expertise in Stealth, Perception, Investigation, and Arcana). That character doesn't make skill checks against particular creatures, really, so Scanning the Mark doesn't fit her -- and indeed it would be out of character for her to suddenly be really persuasive even after observing somebody for a minute; it's not about knowing what to say, exactly, but she gets flustered and trips over her words. As the designated scout, her high stealth and passive perception are big parts of her identity, so I'm not sure how Wait a Minute would work with that. By making the skill features more skill-generic (or in the case of Scanning the Mark, specifically interpersonal), you remove the capacity to tailor your particular rogue to a particular area of expertise, which is one of the fun things about playing a rogue (and in fact, one of the things that can make playing two different rogues a radically different experience).

Well, those were just off the tip of my head. I am certain I can create a feature that will fix the balance issues. However, not wanting to waste time, I think the earlier suggestion is probably best.
 

Sure, but in earlier editions Rangers didn't get spells until much later on.
We're looking at the 5e Rogue and 5e Ranger here.
I have no issues with the Rogue being generally better than the Ranger in skulking in a dark alley, blending into a crowd, or moving across a forest full of dry leaves as purely mundane exercises.
Because in the situations where I see the generic Ranger as being superior, they are: using class abilities or spells, a ranger can not only surpass the Rogue in stealth, but also pull of things that the Rogue cannot even attempt.

And spells are a limited resource so should never be taken into consideration IMO when comparing skills.
That's like adding the caster's casting ability modifier to every die when rolling Cantrip damage.
Because spells are a limited resource so should never be taken into consideration when comparing combat effectiveness.

One of the Rogue's major schticks is their focus on mundane skills. They get better at climbing walls when others can cast Fly or get short-range teleports etc. They get really good at sneaking when others can turn invisible, or transform into innocuous creatures etc. They get extra dice representing dirty fighting where others get Extra Attack or Lightning Bolt etc.
 

Mycroft

Banned
Banned
For sneak attack. Not advantage.

Exactly, get the Large or smaller monster prone, have the bard or rogue keep it that way with their absurd +17 grapple check vs. the monster's +8 (on a good day) grapple check, while everyone wales on it (sneak attack damage included).

I think grapple/shove checks should just be a Str-based attack.
 

Esker

Hero
That's like adding the caster's casting ability modifier to every die when rolling Cantrip damage.
Because spells are a limited resource so should never be taken into consideration when comparing combat effectiveness.

Yeah, or like saying you want to limit the fighter to two attacks because that's how many the Paladin gets, never mind smites, since those are a limited resource.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Exactly, get the Large or smaller monster prone, have the bard or rogue keep it that way with their absurd +17 grapple check vs. the monster's +8 (on a good day) grapple check, while everyone wales on it (sneak attack damage included).

I think grapple/shove checks should just be a Str-based attack.

That is an odd and relatively rare situation though, and not an issue of ranged attacking with sneak attack. Indeed, you just gave that ranged rogue disadvantage on attacks if you pinned the monster prone, as only melee attacks gain advantage to attacking them while prone and everyone else is disadvantage. And you're taking your entire action to keep them grappled. There is nothing odd about that either - lots of spells do that as well, even at low level.

Are you saying in your actual played games you're seeing one person use an action or bonus action to knock a single foe prone, and then another rogue or bard spend their action to grapple that foe, just to give remaining melee attackers advantage, often? Or is this theorycrafting? Because I've never heard anyone complain, in all these 5 years on the board here or at the WOTC boards or on Reddit or Facebook or blogs or YouTube videos or anywhere else, that rogues and bards grappling foes is an issue. Much less a common one.
 

5ekyu

Hero
I mean, yes? That's the design of the class: they get spells that enhance their other abilities. And if you want an especially sneaky ranger, you have Gloomstalker, who become invisible in darkness. I could easily say, "Why should rangers have spells? That doesn't really make sense." But if you weaken the ranger's spellcasting ability, you're blowing a big hole in the class.



Well, ok, then you no longer have the perceived problem that wizards have no way to be as good at arcana as rogues who pick arcana, etc. Right? Why also mess with expertise itself?



A lot of those are a stretch and/or the classes you mention have features that enhance their abilities in those kinds of things that aren't bonuses to skill checks. Monks have slow fall and increased speed, for example; barbarians have advantage on strength checks while raging; warlocks and sorcerers (and wizards) have the friends cantrip and various spells with charm and fear effects; warlocks also have access to Mask of Many Faces; Clerics have Zone of Truth; wizards have divination spells; Barbarians already have Danger Sense (as you yourself pointed out).

Look, if you are going to redesign the classes from the ground up because you think there should be a tight connection between skill bonuses and the fiction, more power to you. But it's not fair to the rogue to single them out for their access to higher skill bonuses compared to other classes when other classes have different ways to get at similar results. And, you know what, any class is free to take a level of rogue for expertise if they think it's that great! It doesn't mean they have to become a scoundrel; it just means they're focusing on their skills at the expense of progressing in their other features.



So let's think about the tradeoffs here compared to the expertise feature. On the plus side for the rogue, they can gain expertise in any skill check -- not just those they picked for their character -- if they have the time to analyze the situation. One down side is they can no longer be experts at hiding in combat, which is pretty rough for certain builds, who basically require they be able to hide nearly at will, at least when the terrain supports it. Rogues can no longer be experts in acrobatics really, either, but you gave them the ability to make acrobatics checks as a bonus action, so I'm ok with that. Certain subclasses have features that allow them to do certain things using skill checks in combat: The Inquisitive's Insightful Fighting, the Swashbuckler's Panache, the Thief's Fast Hands, the Arcane Trickster's Mage Hand Legerdemain. But you could just give those subclasses (at least situational) expertise in their particular skills.

From a balance perspective, I think this comes close if you do something to address the hiding issue, and let subclasses get double proficiency in their sphere without needing a minute. But from a character design perspective, I don't like it as much as RAW, because it makes it harder to make one rogue distinct from another. In my regular home game, I play a rogue/wizard who is painfully awkward in social situations, but is really good at staying unnoticed, noticing things, figuring out situations, and knowing stuff about magic (she has expertise in Stealth, Perception, Investigation, and Arcana). That character doesn't make skill checks against particular creatures, really, so Scanning the Mark doesn't fit her -- and indeed it would be out of character for her to suddenly be really persuasive even after observing somebody for a minute; it's not about knowing what to say, exactly, but she gets flustered and trips over her words. As the designated scout, her high stealth and passive perception are big parts of her identity, so I'm not sure how Wait a Minute would work with that. By making the skill features more skill-generic (or in the case of Scanning the Mark, specifically interpersonal), you remove the capacity to tailor your particular rogue to a particular area of expertise, which is one of the fun things about playing a rogue (and in fact, one of the things that can make playing two different rogues a radically different experience).
So, the character **with** divine connections inexplicably out performs the ones without in a competitive series of contests and your table's takeaway is the mechanics suck?

That woulda been roleplaying gold at our table.

Prolly best you tweak those mechanics for your folks tho.
 

Esker

Hero
So, the character **with** divine connections inexplicably out performs the ones without in a competitive series of contests and your table's takeaway is the mechanics suck?

That woulda been roleplaying gold at our table.

Prolly best you tweak those mechanics for your folks tho.

Is this meant as a reply to [MENTION=2445]WaterRabbit[/MENTION]?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
New Cunning Action options
When you use your bonus action, you can choose to:


Free Movement. You ignore difficult terrain until the start of your next turn.
Misdirect. You choose one opponent you can see, and the next attack that opponent makes against you has disadvantage.
Take Aim. You gain advantage on your next ranged attack roll until the end of your turn.
Unbound. If you are grappled or restrained, you can make a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to escape.

We are currently play-testing these, but the idea was to represent the maneuverability of rogues. We tried to keep it balanced with two combat-oriented and two non-combat-oriented. Personally, instead of just being skill monkeys, I would to develop rogue is very versatile characters with more options for more things.
I have to admit I do definitely like the flavor of explicit action options.

Now if we associated those directly with trained use of skills or dare I say it someone with expertise in a skill ;)
 


DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
For a while, since I've been into 5E really, I have been annoyed by the contributions relatively of proficiency bonus, ability modifiers, and expertise. To me, proficiency should trump ability and expertise in the long run, but RAW we see proficiency barely beat out ability score modifiers (+6 max vs. +5 max). And expertise, available only to two classes with some archetype exceptions, equal to proficiency makes it too good IMO.

We currently play with the house-rule that proficiency caps out at +8, ability scores at +5 (was also +4 but we reversed it for simplicity since monsters and such are based on +5 progression), and expertise at +4 (+2 at low levels, +3 a mid, and +4 at higher). The potential maximum is still +17, so it works with the current system. I would like to see proficiency progress up to +11 or 12 even, lower ability scores to +4, and maybe make expertise a flat +2 bonus, and I might do this but I wonder if it would mess things up...

Now sure, the game plays fine RAW and with a practical cap at 30. So, I understand the purpose for bounded accuracy and all, but it makes me wonder if they bounded it too much?

Has anyone else had issue with the +6 vs. +5 vs. +6 system? Do you think it should be weighed differently? I am sure a lot of people haven't, and that is great for you, so I am more interested in people who do have issues with it. ;)

So, I am quoting the OP for one purpose, which I bolded. While I appreciate some creative feedback on the drawbacks of making changes, it has gone on long enough for me. While some people have offered suggestions and alternatives (THANK YOU very much!), the thread is getting to the point of people discussing why it shouldn't be done, i.e. weighed differently between proficiency, ability, and expertise.

As I said in the OP, the game plays fine RAW, but I (and others at my table) aren't happy with it as is. We are seeking CHANGE, not reasons why we shouldn't. I could argue forever why we should but there is no point. Those who have expressed their views have (usually ;) ) done so well. I am not concerned with nerfing the beloved rogue or his cousin, the bard, by altering how expertise affects the game or reworking it entirely. Our table will still love the rogue (well, none of like the bard anyway... so no loss there as far as we're concerned :D ), and enjoy playing him as much, if not more, than before.

Our rogue will have features that allow him to excel still at skills, even if in a different fashion, and we love the rogue for all the other things he can do.

Now, most of you have side-conversations going on, so of course I am not saying anything like "don't post here, blah blah blah". I am just saying unless you post something which furthers my goal, I probably won't reply (sorry, Esker, it's been fun!).

Later, all, and thanks for contributing! :)
 

I have to admit I do definitely like the flavor of explicit action options.

Now if we associated those directly with trained use of skills or dare I say it someone with expertise in a skill ;)
That is a pretty good idea.
For those to whom it is problematic that the Rogue is able to roll higher in a skill check than the class that they regard as that skill being 'iconic' to.

Perhaps if Expertise was to give a unique capability that utilises that skill rather than a bonus to ability checks using it?
The Rogue picks from a few abilities for each skill, perhaps allowing multiple picks per skill, perhaps not.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Apropos of nothing recent in this thread, except peripherally right above, I think expertise would be a wonderful rule if 5e had degrees of success and expertise allowed you to game the success levels, or somehow narrate them more to your benefit. It's tough when you have a straight binary system and every rule has to be about mods, because mods only get you so far before they, well, cause the problems we're talking about. Less failure and more narrative control over success would be more than enough for a class ability IMO.
 

Sadras

Hero
So last night, we had another example of where the straight d20+mods >= DC produces results that don't align with expectations. DM has a series of carnival games where player rolls against STR or DEX based skills. The fighter and the monk each have between +5 to +9 on the checks. The cleric has +0 to +2 on the checks. Cleric wins all of the games including the opposed arm wrestling against said fighter and monk. Why, cleric rolls 18s or better for every roll and monk and fighter cannot get above a 10.

Why allow a roll - did you honestly believe there was a reasonable chance of success with a person who has a +9 and another a +0? Why not use passives? Why not have it best of 3? Why not offer disadvantage to non-proficient characters?
At this point it should become less about mechanics. If a halfling challenges an ogre to an arm-wrestle, no magic involved, I usually default to in-game internal consistency = No roll, ogre wins.
 

Mycroft

Banned
Banned
At this point it should become less about mechanics. If a halfling challenges an ogre to an arm-wrestle, no magic involved, I usually default to in-game internal consistency = No roll, ogre wins.

Yes, for arm wrestling, the stronger character simply wins, no rolls. If they are equal, well, then you can get all Over the Top.
 

5ekyu

Hero
Apropos of nothing recent in this thread, except peripherally right above, I think expertise would be a wonderful rule if 5e had degrees of success and expertise allowed you to game the success levels, or somehow narrate them more to your benefit. It's tough when you have a straight binary system and every rule has to be about mods, because mods only get you so far before they, well, cause the problems we're talking about. Less failure and more narrative control over success would be more than enough for a class ability IMO.

For ability checks, attack rolls and saves- 5e is not binary - tho certainly a GM can choose to make it that way for their games.

For ability checks specifically, since we are talking expertise, a failure can be either no progress or limited progress with setback in addition to success (of course.) (DMG success at cost rule adds this gor attacks and saves but it's the default rule for ability checks.) Compared to a "binary" pass-fail only, this does result in "less failure" - but only if the GM chooses to use it.

Degrees of success or failure is already in the resolution for some skills and saves. There are sections addressing on degrees and crit failure or success in the DMG for the GM who wants them.

Just sayin' that a GM who doesnt want "binary 5e" has core rules and more already there in the system and just has to use them. For ability checks, its default.

In my game, easily half the non-passive ability checks that don't make the DC are resolved as "some progress with setback."
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
That is a pretty good idea.
For those to whom it is problematic that the Rogue is able to roll higher in a skill check than the class that they regard as that skill being 'iconic' to.

Perhaps if Expertise was to give a unique capability that utilises that skill rather than a bonus to ability checks using it?
The Rogue picks from a few abilities for each skill, perhaps allowing multiple picks per skill, perhaps not.
or make it a pick per point of expertise ... so you have progression
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So last night, we had another example of where the straight d20+mods >= DC produces results that don't align with expectations. DM has a series of carnival games where player rolls against STR or DEX based skills. The fighter and the monk each have between +5 to +9 on the checks. The cleric has +0 to +2 on the checks. Cleric wins all of the games including the opposed arm wrestling against said fighter and monk. Why, cleric rolls 18s or better for every roll and monk and fighter cannot get above a 10.

So roleplay it.

Fighter: "If my muscles weren't still sore from the last fight, you wouldn't have had a chance to beat me at arm wrestling, cleric."

Just because D&D doesn't have a mechanic for sore muscles, doesn't mean that sore muscles can't happen as a reason to explain the result of the contest. There are other explanations you can come up with as well.

So even with a high modifier differential, the dice contribute much more than the abilities. So instead of games of skill, they all became games of chance.

The point of this: no matter how much one frets about ability, proficiency, expertise none of that matters when d20+mods >= DC is the core mechanic. A 2d10 mechanic would at least make the dice modifiers move the game toward skill trumps dice as the norm.

You were the one incorrectly accusing me earlier of rollplay. Why give up roleplay for rollplay? Also, even with a d20, skill trumps dice is the norm. +1 will lose to +8 most of the time, which makes the skilled individual winning the norm.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, for arm wrestling, the stronger character simply wins, no rolls. If they are equal, well, then you can get all Over the Top.

Luck is a thing, especially for a halfling. Sore muscles are a thing. Why could't the ogre have sore muscles or have his elbow slip? For that matter, the halfling's arms are so much shorter that to even grab the halfling's hand the ogre has to hold his arm at a really long, awkward angle, preventing him from leveraging his full strength.

The explanations are there if you care to look for and roleplay them.
 

Sadras

Hero
Luck is a thing, especially for a halfling. Sore muscles are a thing. Why could't the ogre have sore muscles or have his elbow slip? For that matter, the halfling's arms are so much shorter that to even grab the halfling's hand the ogre has to hold his arm at a really long, awkward angle, preventing him from leveraging his full strength.

The explanations are there if you care to look for and roleplay them.

Sure.
My idea would be that the PC would have to beat the Ogre's roll and/or the passive (whichever was higher), so as not to make Luck play such a large factor in circumstances where Luck appears to be the only possible factor for what would be an obvious outcome.
 

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