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


First Post
You must have caught me mid-edit. See edited message (sorry about that).


The quote I had in mind was right there in your message:

“So easy” should take into account the ability score associated with the intended action. It’s easy for someone with a Strength score of 18 to flip over a table, though not easy for someone with a Strength score of 9.

So it's indicated that a task could require a roll for some characters and be an automatic success for others.

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First Post
I agree that we don't need tons of fiddly +1s and +2s going around like in 3.5/4e; the clean, efficient approach is refreshing. Still, if the proficiency bonus in trained skills went from like +4 to +10, the characters would actually feel trained.
Yeah, +4 to +10 would work way better. I was also thinking a flat +5, bumped to +10 with expertise.

But I've never really been sure about skills increasing with level. I'd happily go either way as long as the bonuses are large enough to matter.


Esper the Bard

First Post
The DM Guidelines speak of setting a task DC based on the difficulty as compared to the abilities of the character. Flipping a large table over is a hard task for a weak wizard who hasn't done much physical activity, but it should be routine for the hulking barbarian who's used to brawling in taverns every other day. The DM is within his rights to set the DC at 15 for the wizard (who'd be hard pressed to succeed with his +0 modifier) and at 10 for the barbarian (who will likely flip the table over with his +5 modifier). Still, the DCs allow the wizard some chance at succeeding, and still gives a chance of failure to the barbarian.

The DM Guidelines actually do not state this. D&D has never had this philosophy. Let's say I have a tree that requires a DC15 skill check to climb. That tree in the world has a set DC, regardless of who you are. Every published adventure, furthermore, uses this method of set DCs. That is what skills are for; you get better at a skill to increase your chance of success. The DM is not supposed to assign different DCs to various characters for the same task. I'm not saying that such a system is bad or wrong, it's just not D&D.


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Yes, it is hyperbole. Everything you just said I already took into account in my previous post. If you'd read my second paragraph a little closer you'd see that. A character who succeeds 60% of the time still faces a significant chance of failure. A character who succeeds 70% of the time still has a significant chance of failure. Ditto for 80%. And yet, these are people who succeed most of the time.

These numbers also fit in with how the system would respond to am181d's proposal because a typical trained person has only a 1 to 6 point advantage over others. If an untrained person is likely to succeed half of the time (ie succeeds on an 11) then trained people succeed about 55% to 80% of the time (ie succeed on anywhere from 5 to 10, depending on their level). If you think the chance of failure for these odds is so insignificant you shouldn't bother rolling anymore I'd be very interested in hearing your justification.

My advice is don't do checks at 80%. Don't even do it at 70%, unless it's a particularly dramatic moment with truly dire consequences from failure. It's not accounting. 20%-30% chance of failure isn't particularly significant. It's not worth interrupting the flow of the game at that point. Most of your checks should be at the 50% or LESS mark, not the 50% or more.


First Post
My advice is don't do checks at 80%. Don't even do it at 70%, unless it's a particularly dramatic moment with truly dire consequences from failure. It's not accounting. 20%-30% chance of failure isn't particularly significant. It's not worth interrupting the flow of the game at that point. Most of your checks should be at the 50% or LESS mark, not the 50% or more.

A 1 in 5 to an almost 1 in 3 chance of failure isn't significant?

That's an interesting outlook. Can't say I share it.


How significant it is depends on the consequence of failure.

I could see not rolling to-hit rolls when the chance to hit is 75% and there is no great danger - especially in a low-damage game like 4E - because the consequence of failure is fairly minor. All the hit does is contribute to grinding down the enemy, and all failure does is prolong the situation a little. If the combat takes 8 or 9 rounds isn't really very significant. The same can be said for routine searching for traps and treasure, teaching your apprentice a spell, walking the narrow path up a slope, or any of a host of routine situations that could fail, but has minor consequences and could be tried again. On the other hand, when both the player and the enemy has just a few hp left, each to-hit roll is VERY important and suddenly a 75% chance to hit is of great moment.

Also, when the player has thoroughly described what the character is doing, it all makes sense, and the character is doing something that is in it's field of competence - then I could also see skipping the roll. There is a trap on the chest of drawers, and the rogue says he is looking there in particualr, for example. This is the old skool approach, the player describes the action right, it succeeds, even on momentously important tasks. Making the roll and failing is an anticlimax and best avoided.

On the other hand, when doing a delicate negotiation to avoid a major disaster, or climbing at a height where a fall would be lethal, or sneaking under the nose of the dragon - a 75% chance to succeed is really quite low. 95% is actually low too, or even 99%. Do or die, by the dice, is very tense and exiting but also very downputting when it happens. In these situations I tend either against the descriptive way above or to give the PC second chances if the roll fails - it is no fun to die from a single stupid die roll. But I know others live for these do-or-die die rolls.


First Post
A great difference between combat rolls and skill rolls is that skill rolls often are linked, whenever you make even the simplest plan.

Let's pick this simple example, something a skilled rogue would expect to do:

"I sneak past the guard, climb up the wall, and then listen at the window."

That's three skill rolls, and they are linked, as you obviously cannot attempt the next if you failed the previous.

Let's look at the probabilities, making all those three rolls equal for simplicity's sake:

* If you assign each skill roll a 50% chance of success, the entire plan has only a 0.5^3 chance of success, which is 12.5%...
* If you assign them 70% chance, the entire plan stands at 0.7^3, which is 34% - still a lousy shot.
* If you assign them 90% chance, the entire plan ends up at 72%, where you may start to consider doing it...

Looking at it from the reverse, if you want this rather simple plan to have a 90% of success, then the individual steps need to have a success chance of 0.9^1/3, which is 97%.

And that is a very simple plan, with just three rolls. Just adding another character would raise it to six rolls. At 70% chance of success for each roll, that would give the entire plan a chance of 0.7^6, i.e. 11%... At 95% chance of success, i.e. a 1 in 20 chance of failure, these two thieves together would succeed with this simple plan only in 74% of the cases.

(When comparing skill rolls and combat, just for a second imagine a melee system where you were "out" at first miss...)

Warning, anecdote:

I used to play in a campaign where the DM wanted things to be "challenging" for the players - so most things were difficult to succeed at. No matter how good you were, the difficulty simply seemed to rise in a magically matching way. And he kind of liked to, well, remind you of your failures again and again, whenever summarizing the evening's play, the campaign arc, or reminiscing about past adventures.

And after a while, he started complaining about what a passive and cowardly lot of players he was saddled with... nobody ever took any initiatives... nobody did anything without safeguards...

Now, happily, I play in [MENTION=2303]Starfox[/MENTION] campaign. Not only is his homebrew very good for skill-heavy play, with a normal-distribution dice rolls which means you can trust them most of the time, and limited re-rolls that smooths the worst swingy bumps without making it boring, but he is also, as a GM, good at encourage you to dare to do, well, Heroic stuff - and having a rollicking good time doing it....
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A great difference between combat rolls and skill rolls is that skill rolls often are linked.

On the subject of linked rolls, many skill attempts in 3E are linked with themselves by their very nature.

Climb: As a move action, move 1/4 your speed climbing, make a roll. Repeat until the climbing is completed or you fall. A lot of linking already, especially on long climbs.

Move silently/Hide (Stealth in in Pathfinder parlance): As a move action, move half your speed and make BOTH move silently and hide checks. Repeat until you get where you want to or you are spotted. This is an enormous amount of linkage, and almost guaranteed to fail very quickly.

A solution to this conundrum that I often use as a GM is to require one skill roll, then allow Take 10 on subsequent rolls. So you make one roll to see if you get to grips with this wall, then you can Take 10 as long as conditions remain the same - effectively that first success makes the rest of the climb a non-stressful task.

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