D&D 5E Skills - Does anyone actually like the way they're headed?

Esper the Bard

First Post
I've been running the D&D Next playtest rules, and I am still trying to come to terms with the skill system.

My criticism of skills is that the proficiency bonus just isn't substantial enough. At Level 1, someone trained in a particular skill is a mere +1 better than someone who has no experience whatsoever. I realize that the math and DCs of DDN are lower overall, and a +1 in DDN is not the equivalent of +1 in 4e or 3.5. Nonetheless, it still doesn't work for my group and I. We just don't feel like these characters really are trained in the skills, both from a mechanical and a storytelling standpoint. And even moreover, the random die roll really is the main factor in whether or not you succeed at a task.

Look at a skill like Arcana, for example:

Level 3 Mage, Arcana +5 (+3 INT, +2 prof)

This conveys that a mage's wizardry training has only made him 10% better in the realm of arcane lore and magical knowledge. Sure, pure raw ability plays an important role in any skill, but one's training and dedicated learning should play a much greater role. This is especially obvious in very specialized areas, such as esoteric lore, device disabling, or even baking; think about it- your training is practically everything.

Let's say the 3rd-level party comes across a magic rune in a dungeon (DC 15 Arcana). The mage has a 50% chance of identifying its properties, while the fighter has probably a 25% chance. That's a noticeable difference, but really, it should be a bigger difference. Like, mage 60-70% vs. fighter 5-15%.

I could think of many, many more examples where the implications are that one's raw ability and (even more so) pure chance play the biggest factor in determining success. I shake my head.

Furthermore, why does the proficiency bonus have to be equal for attacks, spells, and skills. Would it really be that difficult to create a different bonus (like +5 to +11) for skills? I seriously doubt that a shift of 4 points is going to break the bounded accuracy philosophy.

Lastly, Rogues. The Expertise feature suddenly makes it feel like you are actually trained in skills again but, only this one class receives this feature. Mages aren't experts in Arcana, Clerics in Religion, Druids in Nature, and so on. It don't know if WotC is going to implement such an update in the future, as I've heard nothing of it, but I seriously hope the skill system gets revised.

May your adventures be many and your diligent training make a difference,


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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I'm pretty happy with the skill system as it is right now. The unified proficiency system really helps streamline, simplify, and speed things up.


First Post
I'm basically with you. With the proficiency bonus staying so low, it doesn't have much effect on the actual rolls.

I'd rather they didn't give us a bunch of numbers to track that aren't even large enough to mean anything. If they don't have the proficiencies making a substantial difference, I'd rather just not have them.

That said, I don't think they need to scale much more over levels. I'd be happy if the bonus started large and just stayed steady over the course of the PCs career (like the areas of Lore they had for a while, although probably not a full +10).


Esper the Bard

First Post
The proficiency bonus is a very easy and customizable mechanic.


I agree, it is very easy. But, whether you had +1 or +5 at level 1, it's still just as easy. I am not arguing that it should be less easy, just that training should actually feel like training. This year, I practiced rock climbing, guitar playing, singing, and Spanish. I am definitely way more than 10% better at these skills now, and someone who has never trained in these skills is way more than 25% less capable than me. Again, none of this is complicating the system. It's just changing what the numbers are by a few points in order to evoke something that doesn't jar the sense of immersion.

Customizable? There really isn't any customization. You either are proficient or you are not. Unless, you're referring to the customization of selecting the skills in which you're proficient, which would have nothing to do with my post (as I never argued against skill selection/amount of skills known).


I quite like it. I appreciate that the fighter has a chance to know what a magical rune is; it gives the character a reason to roll. It allows for moments where the wizard is stumped and the fighter squints, tilts his head, then says, "Isn't that ancient infernal? I... er... saw the runes on a guy's armor one time."

On the topic of expertise, perhaps that should be handed out via backgrounds? So a guide gains expertise in survival, a sage gains expertise in a knowledge of their choice, a priest gets religion, etc. I wouldn't complain if there was a little more expertise floating around; it certainly wouldn't make the rogue feel gimped.
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Li Shenron

My criticism of skills is that the proficiency bonus just isn't substantial enough.

Look at a skill like Arcana, for example:

I think Knowledge skills work in a different way compared to others, and this is why in the previous packet they ended up with the idea of using a huge bonus to Lores.

It's not only a conceptual problem to have a Wizard, albeit low-level, only have a 10-20% better chance than the other at knowing Arcana stuff. It's also a practical problem, because any clever player immediately realizes that everyone should ask to roll knowledge checks if the Wizard fails. It's just so convenient to try, that every group would better default to everybody rolling, every time there is a knowledge task at hand, and personally this is a huge let-down for me. And because of the swinginess of d20, a larger group of PC without any of them trained in Arcana, might end up having better chances than a smaller group with someone trained. This can happen also to other skills, not only with Lores.

Personally I think the 3ed solution to this problem was good: make some skills trained-only. Don't let everybody try. The downside, is that the occasional group without any PC having a certain trained-only skill, can never use that skills. Apparently a lot of gamers consider this unacceptable... but I find it hard to agree, especially since the game in the last 10 years has seen a progressive increase of skills per characters and a progressive merging of skills, to the point that it's rare to have a group of PC that doesn't have everything covered.

In general terms, it's nice to have one system to represent all skills, but it's undeniable that many skills work differently... besides knowledge, there are skill tasks where sometimes the worst of the group will determine the outcome (e.g. the whole group sneaking past guards = each PC making a Stealth check, one failure means group failure) while others where the best of the group determines the outcome (e.g. all knowledge checks, all perception checks except for determining surprise). It's very hard to keep both types in the same bucket, especially since other times the same skill check may be needed by one PC only (e.g. only the Rogue needs to sneak to steak the key) or has individual consequences (e.g. perception checks to avoid being surprised in the first round of combat).

All in all, I think it's too late to revise skills, so most likely we are stuck with this system.

What they can still easily do, and likely will, is to simply grant Wizards (and others who get a bonus proficiency in a lore skill) expertise in such skill. There might also be other sources for Expertise in a skill, such as a background trait or a feat.


Skills are... okay now. I think I'd prefer starting at +3 and growing to +6 at level 20 would make more sense. Internally, +3 would mean an expert no matter if it is from proficiency or natural ability. And it would affect the d20 better.

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