D&D 5E Some thoughts on skills.

Reynard

Legend
At least according to the poll I put up recently, Skills are the single most agreed upon mechanic for D&D. Thinking about the way 5E uses skills, I would like to propose some ideas for how I think they could be better utilized in the game.
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
2) Skills need to be disconnected from ability scores. there is already a rule that makes this possible, but it needs to be explicit.
3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained.
4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
6) Backgrounds should determine how many base skill points you get, modified by class.
7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks.

In addition, this is a more general rule, but I think advantage and disadvantage should stack from different sources and cancel each other out on a one for one basis, AND if more than 1 "level" of advantage or disadvantage remains, you roll multiple additional dice and take the bester/worst of all of them.

EDIT: For clarity, I am "liking" posts because I am glad people are engaged in the topic, not necessarily becaaue I agree with you lot.
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained
There already is a built-in penalty: if you are untrained, you don't get to add your Proficiency Bonus. Put another way, the current rules are the reverse of your request: being trained gives you a bonus.
7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks.
This I am onboard with. IMO, tool proficiencies make a distinction for very little purpose.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I started writing several items, then realized they either break BA or are likely too complex for 5E simplicity ethos. I need to just stop and listen to folks for a bit.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
At least according to the poll I put up recently, Skills are the single most agreed upon mechanic for D&D. Thinking about the way 5E uses skills, I would like to propose some ideas for how I think they could be better utilized in the game.
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
This is just perception. It's a unified mechanic, that's all. And when (2) comes into play separating them from specific abilities that perception is cured. No action needed.

2) Skills need to be disconnected from ability scores. there is already a rule that makes this possible, but it needs to be explicit.
I am all for this, but I find that some of my players get really confused when it's not pre-calculated on my character sheet. So this needs to be evaluated for newbie/casual friendliness.

3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained.
There already is. It's lack of adding in proficiency. No action needed.

4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
I am all for this concept personally. But, it needs to stay within D&D ideas (so no "half ability score modifiers" or the like) and 3ed and 3.5 showed large problems where DCs needed to be either where some characters had no chance to challenge ones with big modifiers, or to challenge tghe majority of the party some characters would always succeed. Those were no good, so we still need to keep them in a fairly small range.

5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
Definitely for this. The most rolled ones need to be split up so there's no "god" skills like perception.
That said, with removal of being tied to an ability score some fo the lesser used ones could be combined - no need for separate athletics and acrobatics, for example.
Also, ones that never get any use need to be buffed so they are valid choices. Adding more if some are universally ignored as weak choices doesn't really increase the selection.

6) Backgrounds should determine how many base skill points you get, modified by class.
OneD&D Background has become thematically meaningless, which was an issue I had with it. If you want free floating skill points, do that separately. But leave backgrounds as meaning something thematically - that it it's only contribution.

7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks.
Good with this.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
At least according to the poll I put up recently, Skills are the single most agreed upon mechanic for D&D. Thinking about the way 5E uses skills, I would like to propose some ideas for how I think they could be better utilized in the game.
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
2) Skills need to be disconnected from ability scores. there is already a rule that makes this possible, but it needs to be explicit.
3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained.
4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
6) Backgrounds should determine how many base skill points you get, modified by class.
7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks.

In addition, this is a more general rule, but I think advantage and disadvantage should stack from different sources and cancel each other out on a one for one basis, AND if more than 1 "level" of advantage or disadvantage remains, you roll multiple additional dice and take the bester/worst of all of them.
Backgrounds are going away in oned&d with good reason. Otherwise I agree with pretty much this entire list. Especially 3 4 5 & 7. I don't mind tool proficiencies as a concept like 3.x craft magic X type feats but masquerading as generic skills is just a mess because there's literally no cost or opportunity cost to having half the table being able to say "well I'm proficient in smith tools can I try to make...." but almost no plausible benefit in normal play to choosing the vast majority of tools.

Everything else combines into creating room for players to carve out their PC's niche as something other than "generic adventurer" isekai self insert do everything best type thing. I want my players to be specialized in their niche so I can build plot drama & story around their niche, I can't do that around five players who say "oh I want to try that too dice clatter"

A penalty for untrained creates room for jack of all trades (ie bard) & tangential skill acquisition without shoulder checking other PCs out of what should be their own spotlight niche. A wizard or similar might have a very solid claim on arcana & other knowledge skills as a skill (as they once did) while a rogue or certain fighters with their own areas of solid claim might be able to justify having some skill at arcana as well. Having a penalty on untrained means that said fighter & rogue can justify enough knowledge of arcana to be dangerous & maybe know a thing or two in a pinch without expecting to know as much as the PC who literally embodies that knowledge in every pore of it's fluff & lore. Shifting more weight to the skill itself expands that split & raises the floor for specialists.

Bounded accuracy needs to die in a game where skills & levels advance with the character
 

Shiroiken

Legend
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
No moreso than attacks and saving throws are. This mentality (along with #3 below) leads to skills being gated, as what happened in 3E.
2) Skills need to be disconnected from ability scores. there is already a rule that makes this possible, but it needs to be explicit.
This was done in the playtest, but apparently too many people complained. DMs asked for an ability check, and players offered skills they felt appropriate to the task. Unfortunately players tried to find any excuse to use a skill, even if it made zero sense.
3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained.
No. Just no. Not being trained gives you at least a 10% greater chance of failure, this would double that.
4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
I agree with this, but IMO the problem is the ability score modifiers, not the proficiency modifier. They should have used the modifiers from BECMI instead of 3E's.
5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
Only if you open tool proficiency as skills. Very little cannot fit into an existing skill or tool.
6) Backgrounds should determine how many base skill points you get, modified by class.
I disagree. I think that everyone should have pretty much the same skill amount, except for the rogue and maybe the bard.
7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks
More or less agree. Turn them into skills.
 

Stormonu

Legend
At the least, I think there should be a few more skills. Lore (with a possible subskill or specialty) being one distinct from History - and the return of some Constitution skills like Endurance and/or Concentration. I also think Profession should be brought back to replace Tool proficiency.

Likewise, I feel that expertise should be narrower - perhaps requiring a specialty to make it more attractive and being a half-step rather than a blowout ability. Like "Move Silently" or "Hide In Shadows" would be a specialty for Stealth that grants you expertise for that subset of the main skill.

Unfortunately, the skill system has always felt tacked on to D&D rathere than how it is incorporated into the core of most other RPGs. The only way it will ever become truly integrated is if D&D were to eliminate the combat mini-game or greatly reduce its scope. Otherwise skills will always play second fiddle (or even third, considering spells) to combat abilities and combat "skills".
 

Pedantic

Legend
I am all for this concept personally. But, it needs to stay within D&D ideas (so no "half ability score modifiers" or the like) and 3ed and 3.5 showed large problems where DCs needed to be either where some characters had no chance to challenge ones with big modifiers, or to challenge tghe majority of the party some characters would always succeed. Those were no good, so we still need to keep them in a fairly small range.
I'm not persuaded this is a problem. Experts should basically never fail at things they are good at, and characters with no training should generally fail at anything less than simple tasks. I think better integration of take 10/take20 rules would resolve most of these problems, by encouraging characters to simply choose to succeed in low pressure scenarios, and in high pressure scenarios, some characters but all but incapable of doing things and other ones being all but incapable of failing is I think a reasonable reflection of character building choices.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I agree with this, but IMO the problem is the ability score modifiers, not the proficiency modifier. They should have used the modifiers from BECMI instead of 3E's.
I'm pretty sure BECMII & 2e used the same ~6=-1& ~15=+1 so very much agree. Prior to 3.x the attribute mods were not as critical to minmax as they've been such. Roll 3d6 & all the other methods worked because it didn't really matter but now players feel like they've been kneecapped if they don't get to start with the elite array or better. Even forcing players to only use the elite array instead of pointbuy often gets resisted as if the GM is kicking off some kind of adversarial back & forth arms race.
edit: For those who didn't play back then...
It's complicated because they did a lot of things that have no clear analog to anything at all& bonuses were not in any way uniform across the attribs. Here are a couple minus the bits that don't convert

  • Con
    • 1 -3hp/level
    • 2 -2hp/level
    • 3 -2hp/level
    • 4 -1hp/level
    • 5 -1hp/level
    • 6 -1hp/level
    • 7 0hp/level
    • 8 0hp/level
    • 9 0hp/level
    • 10 0hp/level
    • 11 0hp/level
    • 12 0hp/level
    • 13 0hp/level
    • 14 0hp/level
    • 15 +1hp/level
    • 16 +2hp/level
    • 17 +3hp/level
    • 18 +4hp/level
    • 19 +5hp/level
    • 20 +5hp/level
    • 21 +6hp/level
    • 22 +6hp/level
    • 23 +6hp/level
    • 24 +7hp/level
    • 25 +7hp/level
  • str
    • 1 tohit mod -5/damage mod-4
    • 2 tohit mod -3/damage mod-2
    • 3 tohit mod -3/damage mod-1
    • 4 tohit mod -2/damage mod-1
    • 5 tohit mod -1/damage mod+0
    • 6 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 7 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 8 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 9 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 10 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 11 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 12 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 13 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 14 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 15 tohit mod +0/damage mod+0
    • 16 tohit mod +0/damage mod+1
    • 17 tohit mod +1/damage mod+1
    • 18 it's complicated
    • 19 tohit mod +3/damage mod+7
    • 20 tohit mod +3/damage mod+8
    • 21 tohit mod +4/damage mod+9
    • 22 tohit mod +4/damage mod+10
    • 23 tohit mod +5/damage mod+11
    • 24 tohit mod +6/damage mod+12
    • 25 tohit mod +7/damage mod+14
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
At least according to the poll I put up recently, Skills are the single most agreed upon mechanic for D&D. Thinking about the way 5E uses skills, I would like to propose some ideas for how I think they could be better utilized in the game.
Well, let's take a loot.
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
2) Skills need to be disconnected from ability scores. there is already a rule that makes this possible, but it needs to be explicit.
Ooo, looks like I won't be using my red pen that much :p

Agreed. I think training and learning is way more important than so-called natural talent, and if you want that, it should be a feat.
3) there should be a penalty (disadvantage? -2?) for using any skill untrained.
I don't agree with this largely because there should instead be more Trained only skill uses to encourage getting trained.
4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
How about this: Being trained in a skill lets you use the relevant ability score.
5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
Right on, right on.
6) Backgrounds should determine how many base skill points you get, modified by class.
Also good with this. Never thought of it.
7) Tool proficiencies need to go away and having or not having the right tools should modify skill checks.
Let's do both. You can pick a lock with a bobby pin, but you're much better with tools.
 

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