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D&D 5E Skills in 5E. Do we want them?

How would you like Skills to be in D&D5E?

  • Same as they are in 3.5 or Pathfinder.

    Votes: 40 24.0%
  • Limited skill lists based on Class and Level (like 4E)

    Votes: 48 28.7%
  • No skills - just Class and Level based Abilities (like C&C)

    Votes: 18 10.8%
  • A simple skill list like Pathfinder Beginners.

    Votes: 12 7.2%
  • More Skills.

    Votes: 12 7.2%
  • Something else - please detail.

    Votes: 37 22.2%

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First Post
Simple: My character is wilderness themed so I should be able to make a fire.

Medium complexity: My character is wilderness themed and a journeyman survivor so I have a 70% chance of making a fire.

Complex: My character is wilderness themed and a journeyman survivor and after succeeding a 70% chance check I roll 1d6+Wis points of progress towards making a fire.

–I'm summng up my suggestions made in this thread.


Here's a simple skill system that I use in my C&C games... I think it could work for 5th edition.

Background Skills
All characters gain 3 background skills that are dependent upon their upbringing. Background skills include craft, profession, performance and knowledge skills (including languages). Characters with an INT bonus or penalty apply that to their number of background skills.

Class Skills
Characters also gain skills based on their chosen class. Magic-Users, for example, get Knowledge (arcana) and Craft (alchemy) as class skills. Rangers get Knowledge (nature) and Profession (hunter) as class skills.

All skills, once gained or chosen improve by 1 per level (starting at 1st level).


First Post
I'd be good with a very minimal core skill system and let folks dial up the complexity.
Hey, that's what I said!


I also thought I'd mention this idea (link):
Monte Cook said:
Imagine, then, if the rules of the game allowed each character to have a ""rank" " that indicated how perceptive they were, and if all the hidden things had a rank as well. You could quickly and easily compare the ranks. If the character's rank was equal to or higher than the rank of the secret door or other hidden thing, he could find it if he took the time, because it was easy for him. No die roll needed. He can just do it because he's very perceptive. If the rank of the hidden thing was higher, though, he could still try to succeed at a die roll. It's challenging, but not impossible (the sweet spot, if you will). And if the difficulty rank was a lot higher, it would just be impossible, and again there's no need for the die roll. The DM just says "you don't find anything." Quick and easy. And best of all, if the player told the DM that his character was doing exactly the right thing-—checking the statue's teeth to see if one moved-—the DM could easily grant him a bonus to his rank and make what was impossible to find, possible. Player ingenuity rewarded.
What if this was the case for everything? There was a concrete number (1-5 skill points or whatever), that was a beginner, and several ranks above that (every 5 skill points sounds reasonable). Beginner-Expert-Master-Legend or somesuch. And each rank and a few basic assumed tasks that they could obviously do, as decided in the skill. Tiers don't work very well for characters as a whole, but they work great for skills individually!

Li Shenron

A skill system allows more freedom in character creation, whereas class abilities generally means more iconic characters unless multiclassing is allowed.

Unfortunately I think the 3ed skill system went only half way, because with the max ranks and the double cost, it took a lot of courage for a player to invest in cross-class skills. It was like "you can do it, but it's not going to be good for you".

I am quite undecided on whether I want... I always liked using skills and feats to customize characters, much more than multiclassing, but I still want classes to strongly define characters without totally shoehorning them.

Other problems with 3ed skills were that some of them were too weak to be useful (but this could have been easily fixed: just add more uses), that some of them were more relevant when someone in the party didn't have them (e.g. move silently) and that a lot of people pretended every character of certain classes (most notably Rogues) to have all their typical skills maxed and then some. One of the most common house rules in 3ed groups had to do with giving everyone more skills points than normal, or grouping skills so that they were cheaper.

I think skills need to be in 5e, but that the following considerations will be taken by the designers:

- that if a gaming group doesn't want to bother with spending sp or selecting skills, it will take no time to just "slap" default skills onto a character (alternatively, you could just have PC do abilities check, but this requires every PC to follow the same rule)

- that the list of skills is not too short... compared to 6 abilities, it's best to have a list of at least 30 skills to support enough variations

- if some skills are really "must have" then make them "already have", e.g. if every Rogue should really be maximally good at searching traps, then make it automatically maxed to every Rogue without spending sp

I am however in favour of a revision on the concept of skill points... it was fine for me, but it's clearly more fine-tunable than is worth.


Skills are probably the least controversial issue. I'd like to see a bit of a middle ground between 3E and 4E.

3E worked well in play, but character creation was way too convoluted, especially if you tried to make a rules-legal high level character. Too many fiddly bits, like class / cross-class (for each of your classes and prestige classes, aagh), racial bonuses, synergy bonuses, item bonuses, feat bonuses, extra skill points from increased intelligence (but not retroactively...) My Rogue never went past level 6 or so but it was already a pain, and he wasn't even multiclassed yet.

Oh, and then the game expected you to do this for every friggin NPC (and nothing had so much errata like NPC skill lists) If people who are paid to do this get it wrong, the system is too complicated.

I also never liked "cross-class skills", because many of them made no sense. Clerics didn't have Sense Motive as a class skill!
Cleric: "What is this guilty face, have you sinned, my son?"
Rogue: (bluffs, gets a 3) "Uh, no..."
Cleric: (Sense Motive, gets an 18) "Oh good, if you say so..."

4E just worked, which was good. However, I would have simplified differently. I'd have kicked class skills and kept skill points (but without the complications). I'd also have kept Craft and Profession (who thought they were unimportant!?)

Here is what I'd do for 5E:

Each class has 2-3 iconic skills (Arcana for the Wizard, Stealth and Thievery for Rogue etc) These get a flat bonus, which is equal to maximizing them, say +5 +1/level.
PCs then get a number of skill points (unmodified by Intelligence!) to put in other skills. There is no restriction or different point cost, just a friendly suggestion which skills could be useful.
Last edited:


First Post
Hey, that's what I said!
Maybe, but we're at pretty far points on what we're looking for based on your post...

I would prefer that 5e base its skill system on any edition other than 3e's.

3e is/was
* complex enough, particularly if you took different classes, to be an impediment for character tracking.
* bonus bloat and lagging modifiers (outliers on both sides)
* narrowed out character concepts by making it difficult to take fluff or RP skills (ex: Profession, Craft, Perform)
* narrowed out character concepts even further by making it difficult to take core concept skills (ex: Wilderness Survival or Knowledge (Nobility) on your fighter)

I think 5e should start, without adding in extra chapters, with making stat checks. Honestly, I'm fine if a new player sits down and doesn't need to learn skills. It's fine if we do include them at the core - if so, it should be a very simple question. Am I trained/proficient at 1st level? Pick one to a few, move on.

What if this was the case for everything? There was a concrete number (1-5 skill points or whatever), that was a beginner, and several ranks above that (every 5 skill points sounds reasonable). Beginner-Expert-Master-Legend or somesuch. And each rank and a few basic assumed tasks that they could obviously do, as decided in the skill. Tiers don't work very well for characters as a whole, but they work great for skills individually!
Okay, except drop the skill points entirely. You're Untrained, or Beginner, or Expert, or Master, etc... but there's no need for fiddly points in between unless it's a strictly optional chapter for those who desire the additional complexity.


For Core, I'd like to see no skills..

You say that so easily, but are there groups that play with no skills? How?

How do you handle success / failure of anything a PC attempts that is not an attack or a spell? Even in very bare-bones dungeoneering, you need at least some form of Perception. How do you make a rogue class without at least Stealth and Thievery?

At the very least, you need an ability score check mechanic, and some basic criterion to decide whether a PC is competent at what he attempts. Think about a Wizard and a Fighter. Even if both have Int 18, the Wizard still knows more about magic, while the Fighter should be better at devising a tactic for a huge battle. Even without skills as a game mechanic, you need a skill system.


First Post
Nah, you can get by fine with ability checks and having written your character concept. Worked great for years.

Perception? Wisdom check.
Stealth/Thievery? Dexterity check.

After all, if you have a skill system and the wizard and fighter both have Int 18, and they both have History at max... won't you still want the fighter to know the history of wars, succession, etc better than the history of the spread of magic, supernatural relations, etc? You can slice that pie as thin as you want.


Here's what I'd like to see re: skills in 5e, prompted by the fact I'm running AD&D right now and not using them, outside of a roll on the Secondary Skills table in the DMG.

Default rule: no skill system. The basic assumption is PCs are highly capable when it comes to mundane tasks. Rules contain advice for using ability checks and ad-hoc DM rulings.

Option 1: non-scaling skills pegged to ability scores, ie 2e's NWPs. Skill checks in a trained skill = roll under relevant ability. Untrained skill checks = roll under ability/2 (or at some penalty).

Right now I'm really liking the idea PCs have a set of competencies that aren't level-dependent (and mundane-ish skills fit perfectly) and/or a character build resource sink going forward.

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