D&D 5E Some thoughts on skills.

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Not bad. I also like a certain proficiency unlock sort of like PF2 feats, however, with game math that doesn't leave you with like 1-2 cream of crop skills and a handful of roll and pray stuff.
i'm not familiar with how PF2 mechanics work, could you elaborate on how the feats/proficiency unlocks work in that system?
 

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Atomoctba

Explorer
1) Skills need to be defined as a specific thing, not treated as an afterthought of an ability check.
Sorry. I prefer they as an afterthought. See, one of the best parts of 5e design (in my own opinion, of course), is that everything you want to do can be gated to just six scores (the abilities). The player declares anything and DM says, "it seems an use of X ability". Then, the afterthought is think if you would have any proficiency to do specifically that. Perhaps not even a skill, but a tool proficiency. Simple. Elegant.

4) Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
I disagree, again. It is part of the "style of the game". If I am playing a more realist system, yes. I want much less variance in the results. And represented by a Gaussian curve instead of a linear. But, for me, D&D-esque games are lots of things, but realistic is not one of them. They are fantasy, pulp stories. In that stories, even the best swordman of the world fumbles (specially if he is the villain) and the common people is occasionally able to do amazing things. 1 natural and 20 natural covers that and the ratio among d20 values/modifiers to the roll is swing about the sweet spot for that style of game.

5) the skill list needs to be expanded and more skill points need to be provided to all characters.
I am not sure about this one. I like diversity in the party. Perhaps more proficient skills (or more skill points) create overlaps among the players' abilities. I would need to think a bit more about this part.

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.
The elegance of non-staking vantage/advantage is that they get not lots of thought about. Simpler and cleaner. I dislike lots of typed modifiers that do not stack and, worse yet, lots of modifiers to apply to a same check instead of a simple generic plus or minus something.

To clarify, I understand your points and all of them are fine and perfectly valid for the type of game you want... It is just not the same type of game I want. So take it constructively to debate opposite views and we both learn one with another even disagreeing.
 

payn

Legend
i'm not familiar with how PF2 mechanics work, could you elaborate on how the feats/proficiency unlocks work in that system?
Sure. You begin untrained and move to trained, expert, master, legendary. Each step increases your skill ability and access to feats. Its similar to 5E, but with a bigger scale and a lot more interaction with the skill system than what 5E offers.
 

Recognizing this as more a "what are your thoughts" than a "react to OP's thoughts" per se...

I adore the fundamental concept of the 4e skill system. Every skill is very very broad, intentionally and (IIRC) explicitly meant to cover a huge swathe of things that could never, and should never, be narrowly pre-defined. Arcana covers everything to do with arcane magic--you want to invent a ritual, disrupt a barrier, transfer a "cursed with awesome" curse, fool a detector, bind together a golem, etc.? Arcana has you covered. Even if rituals and the like already exist to definitively do some particular thing, the most relevant skill acts as a fallback for when that ritual isn't available.

At the same time, I appreciate the value of the 13th Age Background structure, where it is the player who decides what stuff they've learned to do. That's awesome, and helps integrate the character into the player's thoughts strongly. Of course, the problem is that Backgrounds can be both easy to make...not super useful on the one hand (if highly specific or esoteric), or ridiculously over-broad on the other (e.g. "Super Spy +5" because James Bond can do anything.)

Which makes me want to find a way to split the difference. E.g. everyone gets (say) 3 skills provided by their class, skills that are clear and specific and which can be broadly used. Paladin, say, might get Religion, Diplomacy, and Athletics. But then everyone also gets two player-defined Backgrounds, which give the same bonus as a skill training, but which apply to things worked out between the player and DM. That way, the player-chosen Backgrounds can be as weird or mundane as the player desires, so long as the DM is cool with it. Things that give bonus skills could then give both 1 extra skill training and one extra Background, allowing players to branch out if they so choose.

Skill Challenges were a great idea and should be brought back. They can be improved over their final 4e presentation (not surprising, it was a new idea), but the improvements are mostly flourishes and prying things open a little more than they were before, the fundamental structure is already solid and functional.
 

Recognizing this as more a "what are your thoughts" than a "react to OP's thoughts" per se...

I adore the fundamental concept of the 4e skill system. Every skill is very very broad, intentionally and (IIRC) explicitly meant to cover a huge swathe of things that could never, and should never, be narrowly pre-defined. Arcana covers everything to do with arcane magic--you want to invent a ritual, disrupt a barrier, transfer a "cursed with awesome" curse, fool a detector, bind together a golem, etc.? Arcana has you covered. Even if rituals and the like already exist to definitively do some particular thing, the most relevant skill acts as a fallback for when that ritual isn't available.

At the same time, I appreciate the value of the 13th Age Background structure, where it is the player who decides what stuff they've learned to do. That's awesome, and helps integrate the character into the player's thoughts strongly. Of course, the problem is that Backgrounds can be both easy to make...not super useful on the one hand (if highly specific or esoteric), or ridiculously over-broad on the other (e.g. "Super Spy +5" because James Bond can do anything.)

Which makes me want to find a way to split the difference. E.g. everyone gets (say) 3 skills provided by their class, skills that are clear and specific and which can be broadly used. Paladin, say, might get Religion, Diplomacy, and Athletics. But then everyone also gets two player-defined Backgrounds, which give the same bonus as a skill training, but which apply to things worked out between the player and DM. That way, the player-chosen Backgrounds can be as weird or mundane as the player desires, so long as the DM is cool with it. Things that give bonus skills could then give both 1 extra skill training and one extra Background, allowing players to branch out if they so choose.

Skill Challenges were a great idea and should be brought back. They can be improved over their final 4e presentation (not surprising, it was a new idea), but the improvements are mostly flourishes and prying things open a little more than they were before, the fundamental structure is already solid and functional.
Wow, you have described HoML knacks and backgrounds EXACTLY ;)
 


amethal

Adventurer
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.

I think the difference is that if you are calling for a roll then there is presumably some pressure to the situation?

So it's a novice failing at something very easy 10% of the time, when under pressure. Which is more reasonable.

(Assuming I've understood correctly what you mean by "not succeed ... certainly not")
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
I think the difference is that if you are calling for a roll then there is presumably some pressure to the situation?

So it's a novice failing at something very easy 10% of the time, when under pressure. Which is more reasonable.

(Assuming I've understood correctly what you mean by "not succeed ... certainly not")
Exactly - the DMG is unclear about "tasks so easy you don't even need a roll", and I can think of all sorts of tasks for which a player with a +5 or better to their check need not roll.
 

It is interesting to see the wants and desires of various posters.
For instance, @Reynard and @Atomoctba seem to have completely opposing preferences. Quick modular fixes should be able to facilitate both playstyles within the same game.

Reynard prefers Skills need to inherently outweigh ability scores on the d20 roll.
While Atomoctba is happy with the current system.

My proposed fix is for a modular option (call it Proficiency Dominance for lack of a better name) to exist whereby you halve the effect given to skill checks by one's ability modifier (rounded down) that way the proficiency bonus will likely always trump your ability modifier.
So previously a +5 bonus from a 20 Strength becomes a +2 instead when rolling for an Athletics check. That Proficiency Dominance mechanic could be expanded to Attack Rolls and Saving Throws should the table so wish. It harkens back to earlier editions of the game where ability scores provided much less of a bonus.

Reynard prefers multiple instances of Advantage and/or Disadvantage to stack. Atomoctba is content with the simple clean mechanic as is. One can include a modular Greater Advantage/Disadvantage, where such option exists to satisfy a more complex mechanic.

EDIT: Interestingly WotC never pursued this part of the game but rather left it up to 3pp to expand 5e through modular options. I'm wondering if that is because it becomes too tricky to facilitate so many on/off options on an online platform. I always liked 4e's inherent bonus option on the character builder, where you didn't have to hand out +x items at certain levels if you ticked the box as the benefit was automatically updated when your character reached the required level.
 
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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
I'm talking about replacing proficiency with skill points instead. A linear, granular source of skill rather than the slow, sad drip.
This was mostly ok in previous editions; I'd remove the way to supercharge skills (expertise), I'd remove anything like cross-class skills, but also have a huge sidebar or conversation with players warning them of the potential pitfalls of spreading skills around rather than specializing, depending on the skill and their expectations from it.

One nice thing about the proficiency system is it is a decision that is, for the most part, made once.
I don't think that is the problem with the system as is, rather it is expertise, the heavy weight given to raw ability, and the fact that skills are not well distributed across attributes - coupled with too much DMG vagueness about check DCs

Going to a points system might solve some of those problems but introduce others, while leaving other problems there.

Also, for Baba Yaga's sake, let Intelligence give people more skills (points, proficiencies, whatever) again.
 

Broken record, but having clear spelled out DCs allows players to make informed and tactical choices about skill investment in open ended point assignment systems, where they can decide to stop investing after hitting specific ability breakpoints.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
This was mostly ok in previous editions; I'd remove the way to supercharge skills (expertise), I'd remove anything like cross-class skills, but also have a huge sidebar or conversation with players warning them of the potential pitfalls of spreading skills around rather than specializing, depending on the skill and their expectations from it.
I keep expertise-like abilities (in fact, is where I apply 'roll twice, keep the best') in order to allow people who are good at things to be good based on skill rather than level.

One nice thing about the proficiency system is it is a decision that is, for the most part, made once.
I don't find that to be nice at all, actually. Sometimes you pick up new things later and let others fall by the wayside.

I don't think that is the problem with the system as is, rather it is expertise, the heavy weight given to raw ability, and the fact that skills are not well distributed across attributes - coupled with too much DMG vagueness about check DCs
Expertise is how you break away from raw ability if you go with proficiency though. Proficiency is simply too anemic -- by design.

Going to a points system might solve some of those problems but introduce others, while leaving other problems there.
Depends on what you consider problems, really.
Also, for Baba Yaga's sake, let Intelligence give people more skills (points, proficiencies, whatever) again.
Over the years, observing very smart people and people not considered so smart... I have decided INT has nothing to do with gaining skills.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Over the years, observing very smart people and people not considered so smart... I have decided INT has nothing to do with gaining skills.
The issue in 5e is they've gone so far that Int isn't really useful for much of anything anymore.

I think true polymaths are getting there via some mental stat, and it does not make sense for it to be either Wisdom or Charisma.
 

The issue in 5e is they've gone so far that Int isn't really useful for much of anything anymore.

I think true polymaths are getting there via some mental stat, and it does not make sense for it to be either Wisdom or Charisma.
I think A5E's compromise is a good start. A5E redefines expertise to "add 1d4, increase the die size by 1 step of you get this ability again" and then lets you pick skill specialties that you get expertise on some narrow checks for certain skills, like "Wars" under History. You get Proficiency+Int mod specialties, plus occasionally some from class features.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
The issue in 5e is they've gone so far that Int isn't really useful for much of anything anymore.

I think true polymaths are getting there via some mental stat, and it does not make sense for it to be either Wisdom or Charisma.
Let's just get rid of CON and INT entirely and let WIS mean WISDOM instead of having perception and... faith? Why is WIS faith?
 

Broken record, but having clear spelled out DCs allows players to make informed and tactical choices about skill investment in open ended point assignment systems, where they can decide to stop investing after hitting specific ability breakpoints.
I find the big issue with "open-ended point assignment systems" is that they're plagued by too many structural issues and only truly work if progress is way, way more incremental/continuous than D&D allows for. Getting 20 extremely chunky levels that you can't generally "take back" is a poor fit for this approach. It's a great idea for something that grows very gradually and (relatively) smoothly, but both the general structure of D&D-style TTRPG play (periodic sessions, discrete relatively large power jumps, highly variable content both session to session and adventure to adventure, lamentably high likelihood of games not getting past middle levels) and the amount of time, interest, and effort most people are willing to put out...just doesn't match this.

That doesn't mean it couldn't be developed as an optional alternative, similar to the "spell point" system, but I'm just not sure that this is a great fit for how people play D&D--neither old school, nor tactical 4e-style, nor the current-day narrative-heavy protagonistic approach ("Critical Role"-style as some might put it) fit all that well with it. Old school is too lethal, casual, and preferring fast-and-loose methods. 4e-like tactical play, at least as I understand it (being a fan myself) sees it as an awful lot of design investment and player overhead for really minimal benefits and rife with potential for blind alleys/unforeseeably poor choices. And the prevailing style today fuses the casual-gamer stance of old school and the distrust of "this invites blind alleys" of the tactical side.

So, given the above--what would you do to address these concerns for folks of these groups? Because even with a really really comprehensive reliable list of explicit DCs, I still think the issues above remain. To be more succinct, how do you deal with these criticisms:
  1. This seems like an awful lot of work to get a very small increase in realism. Why not use something simpler?
  2. The high risk of making poor choices means I feel like I have to plan way in advance, which is frustrating and makes it feel much less realistic.
  3. As a player interested in casual play or doing something creative or offbeat, I feel punished simply because I'm not making optimal choices.
 

Let's just get rid of CON and INT entirely and let WIS mean WISDOM instead of having perception and... faith? Why is WIS faith?
I think it's more supposed to represent "mysticism." That is, in order to draw magical power out of religious teachings, you need the wisdom to see beyond the letters on the page and into the transcendental truths within them. Knowledge by revelation or by breaking down the barriers of existing thought (e.g. what koans attempt to induce) rather than knowledge by analysis.
 

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