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D&D 5E Skills redux

Einlanzer0

Explorer
In general I like the way 5e handled skills-as-ability checks, but I feel the final lineup had some arbitrary choices that could have been better, and I think that 1/2 proficiency and 1.5x proficiency should have been handled in a more formal way to provide some basic tiering to competence levels. Here's my revamped list:

  • Strength – Athletics, Grappling
  • Dexterity – Acrobatics, Legerdemain, Stealth
  • Constitution – Endurance
  • Intelligence – Arcana, Knowledge, Investigation, Medicine, Machinery, Tactics
  • Wisdom – Bonding, Focus, Insight, Survival
  • Charisma – Deception, Galvanizing, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion

There are three proficiency levels for skills and tools - Dabbler, Skilled, and Expert. This already exists in the core rules; this section just helps formalize it into a true system that is supported by a couple of new feats.
  • Dabbler means you use 1/2 your proficiency bonus
  • Skilled means you use your proficiency bonus as normal
  • Expert means you use half-again your proficiency bonus (not double as in the core rules)

Skilled is gained normally by all characters while Expert and Dabbler are generally less common and granted through various feats and class features.
On your character sheet, use a horizontal line in the skill bubbles to denote dabble proficiency, a checkmark for skilled, and an x for expert.


New & Removed Skills
Animal Handling (Removed)
Rolled into the new skill Bonding, with some bonuses tied to feats or backgrounds

History, Nature, & Religion (Removed)
Combined into the new Knowledge skill along with other types of cultural knowledge & folklore.

Perception (Removed)
Perception is now always passive, so it is no longer in the skill list. All adventurers can be considered "skilled" in perception. Your perception score is equal to 10 + Proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier (sidenote - I handle Initiative the same way with Dex instead of Wis). Investigation is used in place of "active perception" in most cases, though there may be exceptions.

Endurance (New)
Endurance is split off from Athletics for activities involving any active, long-term exertion of physical effort that are less about "bursts of strength" and more about staving off fatigue or injury/illness. There's a bit of a think line between what is a constitution saving throw vs what is an Endurance (con) check, so I plan to refine the rules a bit here.

Focus (New)
Focus is the mental analogue of Endurance. It may come into play in a variety of situations, but it is most commonly used with revised Concentration rules, making it a very useful skill for all spellcasters. Concentration checks are still made as normal (con saving throws) when taking damage, however, there are new rules for casting concentration spells in general involving the Focus skill that are an attempt at making it a more interesting and risky but flexible mechanic. Yes, I realize this gives wisdom a more central role for all spell-casters, and frankly that's what I want it to do. Other attributes are beefed up in various ways as well such as revised weapon/armor tables giving strength a much more significant role and intelligence granting a bonus proficiency for 13+ and having a much more useful skill list.

  • Casting a spell while concentrating on a spell - DC 10
  • Maintaining two concentration spells (per turn) - DC 15
  • Casting a spell while concentrating on two spells - DC 20
  • Maintaining three concentration spells (per turn) - DC 25


Grappling (New)
Grappling is separated from Athletics. It follows the same rules otherwise with some expansion from homebrew content.

Knowledge (New)
Holds all common forms of knowledge that individuals may acquire through normal formal academics or pursuit of hobbies, including history, politics, and religion. Skilled denotes someone who has an above-average general education level as a result of spending time in a university setting or some equivalent activity.

Characters may receive bonuses to specific types of knowledge checks based on their backgrounds.

Machinery (New)
Governs all advanced knowledge of machinery and non-magical mechanics, generally including the latest scientific and mathematical principles and how they are applied to non-magical devices and constructs.

Bonding (New)
Used for care-giving, handling animals, animal/human companionship, and attuning with sentient items among a handful of lesser things. This is intentionally a bit of a catchall, including taking on some aspects of the former Medicine (Wis).

Tactics (New)
Tactics replaces the Hero Point system from the DMG using the original functionality of Inspiration. It allows you to situationally use your bonus action or reaction to adjust advantages between yourself or your opponent in combat based on battle precognition

The DC for accomplishing this can vary substantially by context, and it can sometimes lead to contested skill checks, similar to Grappling, as you attempt to outmaneuver your opponent.

Note: Inspiration still exists separately, but instead grants d4 bonuses and uses the Angry DM's inspiration-claim variant.
 
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Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Where I see a lot of people argue that medicine is an Intelligence skill, I'd argue that in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world that it has a lot less to do with knowledge and factual things than our modern science-based medicine. As such, I prefer it as a Wisdom skill, as it's more about hunches than actually knowing what the cause is.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
  • Strength – Athletics, Grappling
  • Dexterity – Acrobatics, Legerdemain, Stealth
  • Constitution – Endurance
  • Intelligence – Arcana, Knowledge, Investigation, Medicine, Machinery, Tactics
  • Wisdom – Bonding, Focus, Insight, Survival
  • Charisma – Deception, Galvanizing, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion

There are three proficiency levels for skills and tools...

Perception (Removed)
Perception is now always passive, so it is no longer in the skill list. All adventurers can be considered "skilled" in perception. Your perception score is equal to 10 + Proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier (sidenote - I handle Initiative the same way with Dex instead of Wis). Investigation is used in place of "active perception" in most cases, though there may be exceptions.

Focus (New)
Focus is the mental analogue of Endurance...

Grappling (New)
Grappling is separated from Athletics. It follows the same rules otherwise with some expansion from homebrew content.
XP for making it your own. Sounds like a good system, too. I have questions though:

- THE BIG ONE: where is your armed combat skill? I notice grappling (unarmed combat) made it into the list. Armed Combat might help to fill out the list of strength skills.

- I see you're keeping tool proficiencies. Por que? It's a little odd for a skill (proficiency) to disappear as soon as the appropriate tool is missing. Under tool proficiencies, without a set of lockpicks, a thief suddenly has no ability to appraise a lock, or analyze alien stone masonry that works as a lock. (Behind the curtain: tool proficiencies are the likely compensation for a lack of Armed Combat skill. Because combat is effectively a Tool Proficiency, with the tools being class-appropriate weapons.)

- The elves were miffed when they lost their Spot skill, and the halflings were definitely not having it when Listen went away. How are they feeling about sharing their keen senses with all characters now, with the removal of Perception?

- Focus: good call. It seems like a no-brainer for abilities to have defenses (including Endurance). Were you thinking of adding defense skills to the other attributes? Or pulling Armor Class's dex bonus out and making Armor Class a dexterity skill?
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
In general I like the way 5e handled skills-as-ability checks, but I feel the final lineup had some arbitrary choices that could have been better, and I think that 1/2 proficiency and 1.5x proficiency should have been handled in a more formal way to provide some basic tiering to competence levels. Here's my revamped list:

  • Strength – Athletics, Grappling
  • Dexterity – Acrobatics, Legerdemain, Stealth
  • Constitution – Endurance
  • Intelligence – Arcana, Knowledge, Investigation, Medicine, Machinery, Tactics
  • Wisdom – Bonding, Focus, Insight, Survival
  • Charisma – Deception, Galvanizing, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion

There are three proficiency levels for skills and tools - Dabbler, Skilled, and Expert. This already exists in the core rules; this section just helps formalize it into a true system that is supported by a couple of new feats.
  • Dabbler means you use 1/2 your proficiency bonus
  • Skilled means you use your proficiency bonus as normal
  • Expert means you use half-again your proficiency bonus (not double as in the core rules)

Skilled is gained normally by all characters while Expert and Dabbler are generally less common and granted through various feats and class features.
On your character sheet, use a horizontal line in the skill bubbles to denote dabble proficiency, a checkmark for skilled, and an x for expert.


New & Removed Skills
Animal Handling (Removed)
Rolled into the new skill Bonding, with some bonuses tied to feats or backgrounds

History & Religion (Removed)
Combined into the new Knowledge skill along with other types of cultural knowledge & folklore.

Perception (Removed)
Perception is now always passive, so it is no longer in the skill list. All adventurers can be considered "skilled" in perception. Your perception score is equal to 10 + Proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier (sidenote - I handle Initiative the same way with Dex instead of Wis). Investigation is used in place of "active perception" in most cases, though there may be exceptions.

Endurance (New)
Endurance is split off from Athletics for activities involving any active, long-term exertion of physical effort that are less about "bursts of strength" and more about staving off fatigue or injury/illness. There's a bit of a think line between what is a constitution saving throw vs what is an Endurance (con) check, so I plan to refine the rules a bit here.

Focus (New)
Focus is the mental analogue of Endurance. It may come into play in a variety of situations, but it is most commonly used with revised Concentration rules, making it a very useful skill for all spellcasters. Concentration checks are still made as normal (con saving throws) when taking damage, however, there are new rules for casting concentration spells in general involving the Focus skill that are an attempt at making it a more interesting and risky but flexible mechanic. Yes, I realize this gives wisdom a more central role for all spell-casters, and frankly that's what I want it to do. Other attributes are beefed up in various ways as well such as revised weapon/armor tables giving strength a much more significant role and intelligence granting a bonus proficiency for 13+ and having a much more useful skill list.

  • Casting a spell while concentrating on a spell - DC 10
  • Maintaining two concentration spells (per turn) - DC 15
  • Casting a spell while concentrating on two spells - DC 20
  • Maintaining three concentration spells (per turn) - DC 25


Grappling (New)
Grappling is separated from Athletics. It follows the same rules otherwise with some expansion from homebrew content.

Knowledge (New)
Holds all common forms of knowledge that individuals may acquire through normal formal academics or pursuit of hobbies, including history, politics, and religion. Skilled denotes someone who has an above-average general education level as a result of spending time in a university setting or some equivalent activity.

Characters may receive bonuses to specific types of knowledge checks based on their backgrounds.

Machinery (New)
Governs all advanced knowledge of machinery and non-magical mechanics, generally including the latest scientific and mathematical principles and how they are applied to non-magical devices and constructs.

Bonding (New)
Used for caregiving, raise/train animals and crops, provide mentorship to others, bond with sentient items. Sometimes used in conjunction with Medicine for helping others recover from illness and injuries.

Tactics (New)
Tactics replaces the Hero Point system from the DMG using the original functionality of Inspiration. It allows you to situationally use your bonus action or reaction to adjust advantages between yourself or your opponent in combat based on battle precognition

The DC for accomplishing this can vary substantially by context, and it can sometimes lead to contested skill checks, similar to Grappling, as you attempt to outmaneuver your opponent.

Note: Inspiration still exists separately, but instead grants d4 bonuses and uses the Angry DM's inspiration-claim variant.
Not a bad system... :)

I would suggest a slash ("/") in the bubble for Dabbler, an "X" for Skilled, and fill in the circle for Expert. I'll look more into the idea of yours after work.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
I don't consider skills to use only 1 attribute.
Medicine (int) might be used for remembering or understanding.
Medicine (wis) might be for applying it.

I do the same. This would just be the default list. But I also intend to partially use Bonding (Wis) for that, since really medicine as academic knowledge is different from practical caregiving.
 
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Einlanzer0

Explorer
XP for making it your own. Sounds like a good system, too. I have questions though:

- THE BIG ONE: where is your armed combat skill? I notice grappling (unarmed combat) made it into the list. Armed Combat might help to fill out the list of strength skills.

- I see you're keeping tool proficiencies. Por que? It's a little odd for a skill (proficiency) to disappear as soon as the appropriate tool is missing. Under tool proficiencies, without a set of lockpicks, a thief suddenly has no ability to appraise a lock, or analyze alien stone masonry that works as a lock. (Behind the curtain: tool proficiencies are the likely compensation for a lack of Armed Combat skill. Because combat is effectively a Tool Proficiency, with the tools being class-appropriate weapons.)

- The elves were miffed when they lost their Spot skill, and the halflings were definitely not having it when Listen went away. How are they feeling about sharing their keen senses with all characters now, with the removal of Perception?

- Focus: good call. It seems like a no-brainer for abilities to have defenses (including Endurance). Were you thinking of adding defense skills to the other attributes? Or pulling Armor Class's dex bonus out and making Armor Class a dexterity skill?

Thanks!

Can you elaborate on what you're thinking for an armed combat skill? I think standard combat (including unarmed fighting and AC) is handled sufficiently well in the core rules. The reason I wouldn't necessarily favor adapting those as skills is twofold:

a.) i'd be afraid of the level of system rewrites it would require (if I was going that far, I'd probably just craft a whole new ability score system, since I'm not totally satisfied by the six we have.)

b.) I like the idea of conceptually separating skills from core mechanics on the basis of whether or not you can pretty safely assume all adventurers would be proficient as a result of their lifestyle.

B. is also a big part of why I decided to change Perception. In addition to it being kind of poorly defined relative to investigation, I also find it a bit of a stretch to think of Perception as something you could be either "trained" or "untrained" in as an adventurer. It makes more sense to have an even baseline for all PCs that is modified only by Wisdom and miscellaneous feats or features. The Elf feature Keen Sense just grants a static +2 to Perception, meaning they have a base perception of 12 instead of 10. And in fact Perception really should just be a floating # that varies by species, similar to speed.

For Endurance and Focus, technically these aren't defenses, as those are handled by saving throws. What these are are attempts to simulate player-initiated activities that require either physical or mental stamina for success. Some people like to use Athletics (Con) for that, but truth be told I prefer them being separate since they are very much not the same thing in real life - someone can be trained to run a marathon but not have the physical strength to move a large boulder. It's basically physique vs. stamina, which just are not the same.

I always look at tool proficiencies as including a soft knowledge component. That's why I actually love tools as a solution for types of knowledge that are too narrow to be a skill - the main benefit of a proficiency is to give you the ability to do something, but it includes an aspect of knowledge on what it is it allows you to do. So if you are proficient in thieving tools but don't have actual tools, you could still make a thief tool check to do an analysis of something you might be able to fix with thief tools.

This concept also applies to Medicine (Int) vs Healer's Kit, btw, which is part of why I prefer Medicine as an Int-default skill. I look at it more as Anatomy, while I would allow Wisdom-based Healer's Kit checks to actually apply healing (healer's kits have expanded options.)
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Can you elaborate on what you're thinking for an armed combat skill? I think standard combat (including unarmed fighting and AC) is handled sufficiently well in the core rules. The reason I wouldn't necessarily favor adapting those as skills is twofold:

a.) i'd be afraid of the level of system rewrites it would require (if I was going that far, I'd probably just craft a whole new ability score system, since I'm not totally satisfied by the six we have.)

b.) I like the idea of conceptually separating skills from core mechanics on the basis of whether or not you can pretty safely assume all adventurers would be proficient as a result of their lifestyle.

B. is also a big part of why I decided to change Perception. In addition to it being kind of poorly defined relative to investigation, I also find it a bit of a stretch to think of Perception as something you could be either "trained" or "untrained" in as an adventurer...

For Endurance and Focus, technically these aren't defenses, as those are handled by saving throws...
Armed Combat skill is just the recognition that attack rolls are tool proficiency checks (and tool proficiencies are just weird skills). There's no system rewriting involved* - that's actually what they are. It's just the labels that you'd change; each class already gets tool proficiencies with their class weapons, but since you're revamping skills you might as well acknowledge that they're tool proficiencies, instead of weapon proficiencies.

Since it's pretty safe to assume that all "adventurers" know how to use weapons, you could, conceivably, roll those weapon proficiencies into one skill. Hence, Armed Combat.

The trained/untrained problem with perception is why I treat investigation and perception as the same skill. I think, theoretically, people actually can train themselves to be better spotters and listeners, but they certainly can be trained in investigation. But yeah, it makes sense to give the different races situational bonuses instead of class skills. (Unless a goal of the game is reducing bonuses...)

Yes, saving throws are defenses, like AC, but if a character is skilled at Enduring something, shouldn't that character have a better chance of surviving, for example, Insect Plague (spell or real)? Wouldn't that take physical stamina for success?

* Although you could write an entirely new system for it, like I did :geek:
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Armed Combat skill is just the recognition that attack rolls are tool proficiency checks (and tool proficiencies are just weird skills). There's no system rewriting involved* - that's actually what they are. It's just the labels that you'd change; each class already gets tool proficiencies with their class weapons, but since you're revamping skills you might as well acknowledge that they're tool proficiencies, instead of weapon proficiencies.

Since it's pretty safe to assume that all "adventurers" know how to use weapons, you could, conceivably, roll those weapon proficiencies into one skill. Hence, Armed Combat.

The trained/untrained problem with perception is why I treat investigation and perception as the same skill. I think, theoretically, people actually can train themselves to be better spotters and listeners, but they certainly can be trained in investigation. But yeah, it makes sense to give the different races situational bonuses instead of class skills. (Unless a goal of the game is reducing bonuses...)

Yes, saving throws are defenses, like AC, but if a character is skilled at Enduring something, shouldn't that character have a better chance of surviving, for example, Insect Plague (spell or real)? Wouldn't that take physical stamina for success?

* Although you could write an entirely new system for it, like I did :geek:

I guess what I'm not following is that weapon proficiency already works exactly like skill/tool proficiency - it doesn't specifically need to be represented as a "skill" or a "tool". That was the whole point of creating a single "proficiency bonus". What you seem to be suggesting is making all weapons roll up to a single proficiency and have that be "armed combat." I don't really think I'm on board with that.

Theoretically, people can train themselves to be better spotters and listeners, but my assumption is that that would apply to anyone who is an adventurer, which is what the rules in general assume about all PCs. Any enhancement beyond that IMO is best represented by feats or class features.

Reducing bonuses is a goal, but I think it's much less of an issue when you're talking about a bonus that is both largely static and passive as Perception is in my system. The problem from previous editions emerges when you're trying to keep track of multiple situational modifiers that change frequently and are forced to do math constantly in real time.
 

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