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D&D 5E Some thoughts on skills.


Morkus from Orkus
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.
Most DCs are 15 or lower, so you don't need proficiency to be much better than a non-proficient person would be. I've resolved this for my game by gating harder to know or do things behind being proficient, but a built in non-proficient penalty would also work.

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A suffusion of yellow
Don't agree, but as I was redoing the skill list I realized that tools don't have a uniform ability score they would be tied to. For example Land Vehicle would probably use Dexterity, whereas Carpentry Tools might use Intelligence or Strength.
Dexterity covers tool use generally - Vehicles need balance/agility whereas Crafting requires manual dexterity, as does picking locks and sewing cloth. Even the blacksmith is more about precision and poise than brute strength

And yeah 5e needs a Crafting skill
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One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
the wizard entry says "you get Arcana, plus any 3 of the following". Similalrly with Bards and Perform.
personally i support the idea that every class should have a 'gain proficiency in X, Y or Z class skill, or if you already have proficiency in the one you pick, gain expertise', of course the expert classes get extra skills/expertises in comparison to the other non-skill based classes.
this is in combination with 'living world DC's', so that your specialist is actually a functioning specialist in making their associated skill checks.


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Id definitely get rid of every caster besides wizard, cleric and bard. I can't stand warlocks and sorcerers and wish they were removed from the PHB.
i'd keep the list of classes there are right now as it but remove wizard's role and capacity as the magic artillery and just have them be the problem solving magical toolbox (maybe have one or two subclasses with offense oriented expanded spell lists), there's enough offensive magic classes already we can afford to loose one of them


but remove wizard's role and capacity as the magic artillery and just have them be the problem solving magical toolbox
Thats another possibility that could work too. I've never played a warlock or sorcerer in any edition so as a DM its always a PITA to keep track of all the player characters spells and spell like abilities and how they operate so I think that's why I don't care for them.


Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Only semi-related, but this is more or less why I think short rest classes get shafted in this edition.


The problem with this is if someone looks at the odds it doesn't make sense subjectively IMO.

Why does a "Very Easy" task have a 20% of not succeeding? It is Very Easy, after all.
Why is something "Very Hard" not even possible by someone without experience and/or training?

The DC's should all be 5 lower as I see it:

Very Easy - 0
Easy - 5
Moderate - 10
Hard - 15
Very Hard - 20
Nearly Impossible - 25
Because the Standard Bonus at first Level is from +2 to +5 for proficient Skills with vest ability score and Attacks that you make. So a DC of 5 is failed 10% to 0% of the times, when you have some skill or ability in it. 5e has also a DC below very easy that is named trivial and you don't let people roll for it.


So ... on the Math-Side of things I see two problems emerge in this thread:

  • Skills outside of expertise don't really matter much compared to the roll of a dice.
  • DCs (and Monsters) that increase with the Character Level, aka Bounded Accuracy.

And another Problem, that is more feel than math: Ability Scores matter more than skill proficiencies outside of Expertise and very high levels.

So, the design philosophy of D&D 5e was, to have one universal action resolution mechanic, to make the game conceptually as simple as possible while allowing complex play: Roll a d20, add your ability modifier and if applicable you are allowed to add your proficiency bonus. That is the standard roll of D&D 5e. It works for ability checks, attack rolls, saving throws. The only rolls that don't fall under this universal action resolution mechanic are damage rolls, death saving throws and some magical effects (sleep, wild magic table ...).

It would be an elegant solution if people would use it as intended. But, as people already noted in this thread, most players use it backwards and start with the Skills instead of the ability scores. Which makes it more complicated.
The benefit of this universal action resolution mechanic is, that the Players are supposed to concentrate on the thing they want to do and not on "gaming the system by trying to apply the highest Skill to the problem, even if it doesn't fit". That is also the reason that by RAW the DM is calling for rolls and never the players. The players are supposed to say, what their characters are trying to do and that DM decides what ability scores are applicable. If you let the players decide, when and what they want to roll, especially when you are allowing to let them call for skill rolls, they will always go for the highest skill and try to make it fit the problem.

So the whole Action Resolutin Mechanic in D&D 5e only works as intended if the DM calls what is rolled and the players concentrate on what the characters are actually doing and not on what is written on their character sheet.
But people don't do that ...

So here we are discussing the expansion of Skills.


Change 1d20 to 3d6

For the Math side of the Problem, we actually don't need to change a lot. In order to make Abilities and skills matter more in comparison to the dice roll, we just need to switch from a 1d20 to 3d6. Because then, bonuses matter much more, because average results are much more likely, while your average roll stays the same (10,5). With 3d6, Skill and Abilities matter much more to do difficult stuff.
For example: A DC of 15 with 1d20 can be achieved 30% of the time. With 3d6 only 9% of the time. When you have a +5 through skill and Ability, you can do it 55% on a d20 and 62,50% on 3d6.
A dc of 18 can be achieved 15% of the time on a d20, and only 0,46% of the time 3d6. But with a +5 Bonus that changes to 40% on d20 and 37,50% on 3d6.
That's for harder challenges. If we look at easy challanges, it also changes things.
A DC 5 will be done 80% of the time on d20 and 98% of the time on 3d6. With a +2 bonus, a DC five can't be failed on 3d6, but can be failed 10% of the time with 1d20.
So while the results with bonuses are pretty similar on 3d6 and 1d20 on the harder end of the DC spectrum, the results without bonuses are vastly different. Suddenly, skill and ability matter way more than before to do difficult stuff, while easy stuff (DC 5) gets done way more consistently even without any bonuses.

And the good thing about that change is ... you can implement it without changing anything else in the rules. Just switch out the d20 for 3d6 and you can just continue to play without needing to learn anything new.

Lower starting Ability Scores

There is a big inflation on ability scores ... Characters know usually start at least with an 18 and everything less just feels weak ...
So, lets be brutal and cap the maximum ability score at 15 after racial bonuses without changing anything else (except the 3d6) on level 1.
What does that do? Suddenly, at level 1, Ability and Skill are the same strength. Your raw natural ability is as good as somebody, who doesn't have that raw ability, but has trained in that skill. I think that is fair on Level 1. And over the levels, that stays roughly the same. Proficiency Bonus and Ability Bonus are growing at the same rate (proficiency usually one level after the ability bonus bump).
So a person without natural ability, but skill will be as good as somebody, who has only natural ability, but no training in it. That seems fair to me. Now you can put expertise on top, and training outpaces natural ability. And if you have natural ability and skill, it also becomes better.

So, with this two changes, you actually very easily fix the playerfacing Rules of the biggest Problems I seem to have seen in that thread here. Cap Ability Scores at 15 on Level 1 even after racial bonuses and change from 1d20 to 3d6 and suddenly, Skill and Expertise matter way more.

Now we have to take a look at the DC - Location based difficulty

We don't need to change the DC Numbers. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 is all fine. What we need to change is when to apply them.
Lets take a look at the most succesful RPG Game out there: Pokemon. What does Pokémon do with their difficulty? They lock it to location.
If you are in the very first beginner region, Pokemon will have a level from 1 to 5. When you continue to other locations, the level of the Pokemon you fight increases. But when you go back to the beginner region, the Pokemon there will still be from level 1 to 5.

What does that do?

1. It makes your Pokémon feel stronger, even though the challenges you are facing grow pretty consistently with your Pokémon level.
2. If allows you to overtrain your Pokemon to make future challenges easier or to undertrain, to beat the game faster.

So, you have a feel of progression. You feel, like you are getting better, while also having the ability to influence the difficulty of future challanges.

Exaggeration: In todays D&D Games, you don't have that. DMs always make the fights and DCs match your Level. You don't have control over when you level, because the DM uses Milestones and decides on a whim "when the story fits", when you level. So in a modern D&D 5e game, every fight and every Skillchecks has the same chance of success, and you can't do anything about it. It all feels the same.

So, let's Pokéfy the game:

Every location in your game world has a set/fixed difficulty (of course story reasons can change the difficulty of a region, they are not set in stone. But in general, at a certain location characters can expect a challenge that is at medium difficulty for a certain level).
So if you go through easywood-forest, the bandits, Wolfs, bears ect. pp. that will try to attack the players will always be a medium fight for level 1 party (on average, you can have easy, hard or even deadly encounters, but all adjusted to a level 1 party). The "Hardwood-Forst" will always have encounters that are created for level 5 parties. And the "Mountains of certain Doom" will always have encounters created for level 15 parties. The same is done for DCs. The rusty lock on a barn door on a poor farm will always be DC5 and the lock on the Vault of Maximum Treasure will alway be DC30 to pick.

Also: Use experience points again and don't use milestones.

What does that do?
So like in Pokemon the Players are choosing the difficulty of the next challenges by choosing, to which location they are going. And they have controll over the flow of character progression. They can decide to stay in an easier location to farm some more XP to become stronger to overcome the next challenge. Or they can decide to go straight to the harder location, because of time constraints, or they want it done ...

Suddenly, the players have choices that they didn't have before when the DCs an CR grow with the players.

Now to do something even more advanced, Tier the challenges.

So isntead of having locations that are for each level (so 20 different difficuty levels), lets reduce that to something like that:

  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Levels 3-5
  • Levels 6-8
  • Levels 9-12
  • Levels 13-15
  • Levels 16-18
  • Levels 19-20
And then we build the locations' difficulty on the average Level. So we build a location that has a Challenge Level of 3 to 5 to a party of Level 4. A location with a challenge Level of 6 to 8 to a party of Level 7 ect. pp.
What does that do?
It makes the character progress even more visible. You go at level 3 into a level 3 to 5 location. It is hard, it is sweaty, it is bloody. Then you get to level 4. It gets a little easier. And when you reach level 5, it is pretty easy. You are feeling that you are getting better and then, when you reach level 6, you look for a new location, because that one just got too easy.
It also paces the game. While our Milestone DM, who ties the Challenge Difficulty directly to the character class has a game, that always feels equally easy/hard, our new pokéfied DND Game with tier challenges has a wide variety of easy to hard challenges, that makes sense in the game world and also make the players feel, that they progress, that they are getting better.

So, TL;DR:

  1. Use 3d6 instead of 1d20.
  2. Cap starting ability scores to 15 including racial/background modifiers.
  3. Location based Difficulties
  4. Difficulties are tiered
That will fix most of the macro game problems.

After that, now you can introduce more Skills or change the skills and tool proficiencies.


The High Aldwin
Because the Standard Bonus at first Level is from +2 to +5 for proficient Skills with vest ability score and Attacks that you make. So a DC of 5 is failed 10% to 0% of the times, when you have some skill or ability in it. 5e has also a DC below very easy that is named trivial and you don't let people roll for it.
It has nothing to do with the "standard bonus" at first level because many people/creatures do ability checks that don't have "levels" or proficiency in a skill.

The DC 5 isn't "Very Easy" for 1st level PCs, it is very easy for every living creature.

Even if I agreed with your logic, should a 1st level PC not succeed at "very easy" task even 10% of the time??? IMO, no, certainly not.

A very easy task should only be failed if there is negative modifiers and likely disadvantage. Reducing the DC to 0 accomplishes that.

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