D&D 5E Some thoughts on skills.

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Not at all. Athletics and Acrobatics are quite clearly different things. But lifting is a form of athletic action. You use the same muscle groups for lifting (and all the things you described) as you would for something like swimming, climbing, digging, or all sorts of other things. Just about the only thing this "lifting" skill wouldn't cover would be stuff involving running or walking!
So forget Michael Phelps; we should put The Mountain on the Olympic swimming team, right? :ROFLMAO: I think different muscles are used for different tasks and in different ways.

Seriously, skills will always be an abstraction at some level. And different people will draw that line in different places. A game with lots of climbing, swimming, and lifting might benefit from finer granularity than just "Athletics." Likewise, a game set at a wizarding school with magical intrigues and ancient mysteries to decipher might benefit from Arcana being subdivided further into distinctive specialties.

I think 5e aimed at the middle, and provided a skill system that would cover most usage in a typical D&D campaign. There will be no "one perfect skill system" for all campaigns and all DMs; we each need to tweak it a bit.
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I think you have a lot of work to do to show that choosing between 3 whole DCs for all of gameplay is inherently inconsistent and arbitrary
"There is more to existence than three numbers."

Is that really a lot of work? It seemed pretty easy to me...

or that the adequate instruction in the DMG pushes DMs to this result.
Considering we have literally had half a dozen threads in the past few months where posters have explicitly and proudly said that the DMG does not and should not actually TEACH or GUIDE, yes, I am quite comfortable asserting that the 5e DMG pushes people toward this result.

I don't think anyone who actually reads the DMG (all two of them including me apparently) can reasonably arrive at this conclusion.
And I do. Having also "actually read the DMG," emphasis in original.
 

Pedantic

Legend
I have no control over what happened at anyone's table and I don't really care that much, but I am pretty invested in a game that's designed and tuned to produce the results I want. There are things I can do, decisions my players get to make and gameplay experiences that occur because of the design that cannot occur without it.

That another GM can't imagine consulting a table is irrelevant, they can ignore the rules just as easily after they're written as that GM can now.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
@Minigiant "Hard for whom?" isn't actually a consideration. Only the task itself is, as I explained already upthread with the example of breaking down a door for a barbarian and a rogue. The DC doesn't change because someone different is attempting the task.

DMG page 238: "If you've decided an ability check is called for, the most likely the task at hand isn't a very easy one... unless circumstances are unusual, let characters succeed at such a task without making a check... Then ask yourself, 'Is this task's difficulty easy, moderate, or hard?' If the only DCs you ever use are 10, 15, and 20, your game will run just fine." See how this references the task itself and not who is doing the task?
You sure you read the DMG you keep saying people aren't reading?
When a player wants to do something, it's often
appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll
or a reference to the character's ability scores. For
example, a character doesn't normally need to make
a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room or a
Charisma check to order a mug of ale. Only call for a
roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure.
When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two
questions:
• Is a task so easy and so free of conflict and stress that
there should be no chance of failure?

Is a task so inappropriate or impossible-such as
hitting the moon with an arrow-that it can't work?
If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind
of roll is appropriate. The following sections provide
guidance on determining whether to call for an ability
check, attack roll, or saving throw; how to assign DCs;
when to use advantage and disadvantage; and other
related topics.

Inappropriate or impossible to who? Hard to who? Conflict & stress to who? You can't answer one without getting subjective or focusing on the individual doing the task on the others but the DCs are presented as an objective metric like horsepower calories BTU temperature etc.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
That sounds like an edge case in a campaign with strong nature themes so my answer assumes as much. Knowledge: Nature. It was accessible by only druids & rangers without going cross class & thus a situation where the identification of wood by smell was important would feel like it fed into a given PC's niche within the group. by strict 5e RAW the nature skill is an option for literally every class because any duplication of an offered skill allows the choice of any skill. Continuing that strict RAW either nature or "nope can't be done because the GM decided having 5 players say 'oh I have nature proficiency' in a campaign the GM said would involve [a lot of survival in the wilds (or whatever)]" is just not going to fly when there's literally no narrative hooks for such a thing across a party of noble/folk hero necromancers dragon sorlock battlemaster fighter hexadins or whatever who also in unison say "Oh I have arcana dice clatter 7 15 17 19 23 27"& "Oh I have persuade dice clatter 7 15 17 19 23 27" & "oh I have thieves tools dice clatter 7 15 17 19 23 27" whenever those come up too.

So by RAW...
"That's just too esoteric & not something you could know... No woodcarver's tools carpenter's tools cooper's tools & herbalism tools don't cut it either because you've never brought them up or tried to do anything with your beginner's dabbler tool proficiency gained while spending your spreadsheet's life doing things that have nothing to do with any of those"
Don't...don't use Syndrome to try to prove anything. He is explicitly both wrong and stupid, and his entire argument rests on an intentional and willful equivocation of what the word "special" means.

"If all food is tasty, then no food will be!"
"If all people are intelligent, then no one will be!"
"If everyone is kind, then no one will be!"
"If all rooms are dark, then no rooms will be dark!"

The one and only way his argument makes sense is if you actually use two different definitions of "special," but that reveals the underlying flaw of his beliefs. The first sense of "special" is "has superpowers." The second sense of "special" is "a unique and worthy individual." When spelled out this way, his argument becomes, "When everyone has superpowers, no one will be unique or worthy as individuals." This is clearly stupid, because there are so many other ways for people to be "special," to be unique and worthy. It is his erroneous belief that having superpowers IS the one and only way to be "special," to be unique and worthy, that makes him both wrong and (because he rejected several opportunities to learn and change) stupid.

Don't use the Syndrome argument. It is dumb and even in the context of the work where it was written it doesn't fly (if you'll pardon the pun.)

I agree. A lot of arguments on this and other issues seem to assume a sort of adversarial relationship between the DM and players.
While adversarial DMing is a concern, it is not the only source of problems. Misunderstanding, miscommunication, tacit assumptions, differences in experiences or genre expectations, talking past one another...there are all sorts of things that can lead to problems here, and the "you're the DM, you figure it out" approach (advocated by both the actual DMG and the culture of play for 5e) doesn't help this at all.

But is that really the case at most tables?
I have seen it, or heard of it, at enough tables to consider it a relevant factor. Particularly if the DM is all huffy about "DM Empowerment."

Probably we mostly settle on playing with folks that we like and get along with, and folks have a strong incentive to be agreeable and cooperate.
I mean, sure, that's ideal. I can tell you right now, it's really friggin hard to find such a group, and with 5e has in my experience been even more difficult to find such groups. I went looking for over a year. Found not one such group. Extremely demoralizing.

That's why I think a lot of these debates, while fun to argue on a technical level, are mostly solutions looking for problems. At least when it comes to my table, and I suspect most tables.
Your suspicion is not well-evidenced IMO.

Mostly we are all a bunch of nerds who think alike and want to hang out and have fun. We just enjoy arguing points on the internet.
The bold is where you are very, VERY wrong. We DO NOT "all...think alike." We in fact often think EXTREMELY differently, and that very thing is what causes a huge chunk of the problems.

There will be no "one perfect skill system"
Perfection is a straw man. No one here is asking for it, or anything remotely like it. Claiming someone is trying to make something perfect when they are simply looking for improvement is an automatic bad-faith argument. I respect that you are (in essence) trying to argue "it's fine, what we have is already good enough!" But you're going to need more than a straw man to back it up.
 

The part where the 10, 15, and 20 is tied to specific actions.

DC 20 is Hard.

What is considered Hard? Hard for whom? How successful should an expert be at Hard actions? How successful should an amateur be at Hard actions? What is considered being an expert or ameteur?
You know, I think this comes down to math, mostly, a degree of movie logic, and how special the PCs are.

How common are PCs? This lets you compare your average plainfolk with a first level PC. Are caravan guards 0-level Men-at-Arms or 1-2 level fighters? Are rulers at least 9th level in something, or are levels not directly relevant to rulership? Are the PCs the only team of particularly capable folks, or are there many teams roving about?

For me, Easy should have a 50% success rate with no bonus- we get that with a 10. Easy are things that you might see everyday as well as trades that are common. Barn raising is easy- takes a lot of people and some teamwork, but it is pretty straightforward with few steps. Building an actual house is hard, much more math and understanding of the flow of forces are involved.

Okay, we've defined easy, what's hard? With a DC of 20, random dude has a 1 in 20 chance, pretty poor. At 12th level, PB is only +4, applicable stat bonus would likely be +4. Let's say +10 with an additional magic item bonus, tool bonus, or something situational. We're at the same place as we were before, but now with something "hard" rather than "easy". Circling back to the actual question, what is "hard"?

Here's where movie logic comes into play. For physical things, the particularly dramatic or heroic parts of Die Hard, Rush Hour, Mission Impossible, &c. I think would be "hard". Anything where when the scene ends you smile and think to your self "that was awesome!" That's "hard". Also, Lipizanner shows, Cirque du Soliel, &c. I don't really want to go through every skill and give people what would be a hard definition for me, but that's where I would start.

I'm personally in the camp of defining ranks of skills, which I think would be untrained, proficient, expertise, &c. in 5e. Here, there are things you can just do or know, and rolls are usually only needed in extremis. Here's a copy of my house rules for the healer's skill, gated by class or number of feats spent. Typical checks are 18+, easy is 12+.

* * * * * * *

Healing: The character is especially skilled at treating wounds and diagnosing illnesses through the application of lore and natural law. Healers can attend to two patients plus their rank of healing per day (i.e. 3-6). A person can only benefit from a treatment once per day, staunching of wounds excepted. Healers can direct others of lesser rank similar to other crafters as mentioned under Apprenticeship, above.

Apprentice- Can identify, gather, prepare, and utilize herbal medicines. They can identify healing and sweet water potions. They can stabilize patients and restore 1d6 negative hit points, although the total can not go beyond 1 Health. On a successful check they can identify if an individual is poisoned, diseased, and if the malady is mundane or magical in nature. The healer can delay poison, slow disease, or improve healing through rest by 1d3 Grit for one day on a successful skill check of 12+.

Fellowcraft- Can prepare medicinal extracts that can be contained in a vial rather than an herb bundle. This includes being able to make yellow bandages, compound laudanum, and similar agents. They can staunch magical bleeding with a check. They can perform a non-magical cure light wounds on a successful check. If they can maintain a delay poison or slow disease effect for three days their patient will be cured.

Master- Healers at this rank can neutralize poison, cure disease, or cure serious wounds once each per patient with a successful check. A failed roll returns fellowcraft rank results. They may staunch wounds that magically bleed on a check of 12+. Maladies that mimic treatable conditions but require a remove curse can be suppressed or mitigated for one day with a successful check (e.g. mummy rot).

Grand Master- Healers that reach this rare rank have skills that seem magical. They can prepare alchemical medicines. Maladies that require a remove curse can be treated with a standard check and a day's convalescence. They can perform restoration, cure critical wounds, or revivify the dead. Revivification allows the person to return to life if:

  • The patient has been dead less than one round per healer’s level (not rank) when they start.
  • The healer can work uninterrupted for 1d4+3 rounds.
  • The head, heart, and the body in general are not destroyed.
  • The patient did not die of “old age”.
  • The soul can return.
If the above conditions are met, then the patient can return to life with a successful Constitution check but will have a week of recovery time.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Perfection is a straw man. No one here is asking for it, or anything remotely like it. Claiming someone is trying to make something perfect when they are simply looking for improvement is an automatic bad-faith argument. I respect that you are (in essence) trying to argue "it's fine, what we have is already good enough!" But you're going to need more than a straw man to back it up.
I specifically do not say it's fine; I say that many DMs will need to tweak things for themselves, their campaigns, their players, and/or their playstyle. I think the current system might hit 50% of groups OK. With anyone's "improvements" (yours or mine), I think you would hit 50%, too -- just a slightly different 50%, satisfying some and angering others.

What I think would be good to add to the game would be examples of this tweaking, demonstrating how the game and its feel would change based on those adjustments (the modular dials we were promised in the 5e playtest, but in a looser presentation).

Edited to add: I used the term "perfect" in a bad way. I realize that no system will be perfect, and I know you know that, too, so I do not mean to imply you are looking to make a perfect system. I just think everyone in here will have a hard time moving the approval needle much past 50% with just one skill system.
 
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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
"Hard for whom?" isn't actually a consideration.
Like bloody hell it isn't. @tetrasodium even quotes (at least one of) the relevant section(s) of the DMG about it. There is no world where the 5e skill system can be remotely considered to "work" and where you don't take into consideration whether a task is hard for the person doing it or not. Walking across an empty room should be easy for most people. But someone drunk and with a peg leg, maybe that's not trivial anymore! Or maybe the character is being tested, or some other consideration comes into play. Perhaps this tankard of ale is kobold-brew, not normally fit for human consumption because of its intensely, vomit-inducing bitter flavor or beyond-the-impossible alcohol concentration (e.g. "it's 300-proof alcohol" "...that's not possible, 300 proof would be 150%" "yeah, dwarven alchemists are still trying to figure out how the kobolds do it. It ain't pretty, whatever it is. Pity their livers when they crack that rock.")

Triviality and impossibility are degrees of ease/hardness. Factoring in elements like whether the room is empty or cluttered is a contextual modifier to difficulty which, again, considers the abilities and nature of the person in question. "Hard for whom?" is a question the DMG actually needs answered.

I specifically do not say it's fine; I say that many DMs will need to tweak things for themselves, their campaigns, their players, and/or their playstyle. I think the current system might hit 50% of groups OK. With anyone's "improvements" (yours or mine), I think you would hit 50%, too -- just a slightly different 50%, satisfying some and angering others.

What I think would be good to add to the game would be examples of this tweaking, demonstrating how the game and its feel would change based on those adjustments (the modular dials we were promised in the 5e playtest, but in a looser presentation).
Then that is where I think you are wrong. Well, I'll certainly grant that the existing skill system won't work very well quite often (50% breakdown rate might be a bit higher than I would say though.) But I emphatically reject the idea that all possible alternatives are equally ineffective. That's patently ridiculous--testing and iterating should allow SOME improvement. We may not all think alike (as I argued above), but there are commonalities that can be leveraged. And if we can hit, say, only a 10% breakdown rate, that would be a HUGE improvement.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
"There is more to existence than three numbers."

Is that really a lot of work? It seemed pretty easy to me...
I'm not sure what you mean here.

Considering we have literally had half a dozen threads in the past few months where posters have explicitly and proudly said that the DMG does not and should not actually TEACH or GUIDE, yes, I am quite comfortable asserting that the 5e DMG pushes people toward this result.
But it does teach and guide, so who cares what those people say?

You sure you read the DMG you keep saying people aren't reading?
When a player wants to do something, it's often
appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll
or a reference to the character's ability scores. For
example, a character doesn't normally need to make
a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room or a
Charisma check to order a mug of ale. Only call for a
roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure.
When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two
questions:
• Is a task so easy and so free of conflict and stress that
there should be no chance of failure?

Is a task so inappropriate or impossible-such as
hitting the moon with an arrow-that it can't work?
If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind
of roll is appropriate. The following sections provide
guidance on determining whether to call for an ability
check, attack roll, or saving throw; how to assign DCs;
when to use advantage and disadvantage; and other
related topics.

Inappropriate or impossible to who? Hard to who? Conflict & stress to who? You can't answer one without getting subjective or focusing on the individual doing the task on the others but the DCs are presented as an objective metric like horsepower calories BTU temperature etc.
Yes, in fact, I have quoted that section backwards and forwards since at least 2015 on these forums. I know it very well. It's still only referring to the task, not the character doing the task.

If you mean who gets to decide it's impossible or inappropriate or that it has no chance of failure, the answer is the DM, which should be obvious.

Like bloody hell it isn't. @tetrasodium even quotes (at least one of) the relevant section(s) of the DMG about it. There is no world where the 5e skill system can be remotely considered to "work" and where you don't take into consideration whether a task is hard for the person doing it or not. Walking across an empty room should be easy for most people. But someone drunk and with a peg leg, maybe that's not trivial anymore! Or maybe the character is being tested, or some other consideration comes into play. Perhaps this tankard of ale is kobold-brew, not normally fit for human consumption because of its intensely, vomit-inducing bitter flavor or beyond-the-impossible alcohol concentration (e.g. "it's 300-proof alcohol" "...that's not possible, 300 proof would be 150%" "yeah, dwarven alchemists are still trying to figure out how the kobolds do it. It ain't pretty, whatever it is. Pity their livers when they crack that rock.")

Triviality and impossibility are degrees of ease/hardness. Factoring in elements like whether the room is empty or cluttered is a contextual modifier to difficulty which, again, considers the abilities and nature of the person in question. "Hard for whom?" is a question the DMG actually needs answered.
Advantage or disadvantage is applied in some of the cases you're citing. It has no impact on setting the DC. Breaking down a door using brute force has the same DC for the barbarian and the rogue. But throw a crowbar into the mix ("circumstances not related to a creature's inherent capabilities provide it with an edge") and the roll is made with advantage.
 

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