the 3e skill system

Greenfield

Adventurer
Not sure that it's a good selling point: that a big benefit to the 3.x skill system is that it can correct for a different failure in play. Your scenario should have been avoided before play even started.
Failure in play? Unless you're including character creation in "play" and excluding unexpected turns in the campaign, then you're not looking at the same example I wrote.

Adaptability over time isn't a flaw by any reasonable standard. One of the primary features of RPGs in general is that characters advance and grow, learn from Experience and get better. If you see that as a flaw then maybe you should try RISK.

Or am I misreading you?
 
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That matches my experience as well. There are actually relatively few skills that make sense to max out, and most of those involve opposed checks. And there is a tension between wanting to max out those skills and also wanting to get advantages from getting at least some skill in useful skills.

There were a ton of skills where having 5 ranks was really nice. And if you were like me, you threw a lot of little 'make skill check or be mildly debuffed/inconvenienced' problems at the players with a DC of between 5 and 10, that encouraged investing in skills or at the least rewarded builds that had them without overly punishing those that didn't.

There are some issues with how conservative the writers were in granting benefits to the player for being skilled, and with the skill system not being really integrated into the rest of 3e, and with spells granting skill way too easily in some cases. And the Profession skill is poorly thought out. And the Craft skill needs an improved crafting system to tie into. And there is a little bit too much elegance, which can be for example seen in kludging the 'Jump' into the system as a skill with a D20 skill check when jumps really don't work like that. And I think Pathfinder has a nice fix for one of the problems with cross class skills. And so forth. It's not perfect.

But the 5e system is such a big step backwards and so generally inferior to the 3e system in almost every way, that it's probably one of the biggest reasons I didn't adopt 5e. Bounded accuracy may work fine for simulating combat abstractly, but it's pretty lousy applied to a lot of other things. It's pretty clear that the 5e system isn't really intended to be a generic action resolution system, and that it's only intended to handle stunts performed under pressure, usually with binary pass/fail resolution only, and with comparatively little concrete guidance as to what is actually performed by an action or how hard it is to do it. And that's to not even get really into the problem that the system is so PC centric, that the DM is forced to just assume NPCs work by different rules. In other words, it assumes all the fun of the game is in the Combat/Challenge pillar (gamist aesthetics) and not so much in the Exploration pillar (simulationist aesthetics). And I like my tactical combat and tense action as much as the next guy, but I'd just play an isometric cRPG if that was all really got out of table top gaming.
I 100% agree.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Failure in play? Unless you're including character creation in "play" and excluding unexpected turns in the campaign, then you're not looking at the same example I wrote.

Adaptability over time isn't a flaw by any reasonable standard. One of the primary features of RPGs in general is that characters advance and grow, learn from Experience and get better. If you see that as a flaw then maybe you should try RISK.

Or am I misreading you?
Of course character creation is part of play.

And your hypo was a radical change in campaign focus right at the start, not a change due to long term shift.

Finally, the system may allow you to course correct in 1 or 2 skills over many levels by sole focusing points into those skills and ignoring your others, which, given your claim of sudden changes in direction, may or may not be a smart call.

Again, if the issue is that the focus of the game isn't clear during character creation, the solution isn't a akill ststem that dies a mediocre job of retraining over a few levels. Nor is such a system a particularly effective tool to adjust to radical changes in focus that obviate previous choices.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
In other words, it assumes all the fun of the game is in the Combat/Challenge pillar (gamist aesthetics) and not so much in the Exploration pillar (simulationist aesthetics). And I like my tactical combat and tense action as much as the next guy, but I'd just play an isometric cRPG if that was all really got out of table top gaming.
I enjoy the Exploration portions of the game, I just think they work better when they depend more on verbal interaction between DM and player and less on rule-defined parameters. That's why I like both 4e and 5e's focus on crunchy combat but more freeform exploration.

That being said, I do lean towards gamist tendencies, so I prefer something with crunchy exploration (a la PF2) to something with freeform combat.

I'd also argue that the most "simulative" way to do skills would simply be freeform descriptors of various character traits, and trust to DM judgment to make sure the descriptors match the expectations of what happens in the fictional world. I mean, ideally, the simulative ideal would be to describe their character's actions in purely narrative terms, and let the DM do the heavy lifting of interpreting that narrative into game mechanics.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I enjoy the Exploration portions of the game, I just think they work better when they depend more on verbal interaction between DM and player and less on rule-defined parameters. That's why I like both 4e and 5e's focus on crunchy combat but more freeform exploration.

That being said, I do lean towards gamist tendencies, so I prefer something with crunchy exploration (a la PF2) to something with freeform combat.

I'd also argue that the most "simulative" way to do skills would simply be freeform descriptors of various character traits, and trust to DM judgment to make sure the descriptors match the expectations of what happens in the fictional world. I mean, ideally, the simulative ideal would be to describe their character's actions in purely narrative terms, and let the DM do the heavy lifting of interpreting that narrative into game mechanics.
I've had that discussion with people on these boards before: Skill resolution via RP and discussion with the DM.

I have players in my group with nothing resembling a silver tongue. Do should we penalize them, forever, because they aren't a glib as someone else?

I had a player who tried to quiet a horse he was stealing by giving it some beef jerky. (Player's suggestion, not character's skill.) This highlights that character knowledge and skill is separate from player knowledge and skill. For someone in a horse-and-carriage world, the Animal Handling or Knowledge Nature needed to know that horses don't eat meat is pretty much a gimme', but the player doesn't live in that world.

For many/most skill checks I let the player describe their plan/action and use that as a circumstance modifier on the dice roll. You can get a +/- 2 on a check that way, which can be good, but you still need the skill.

As for my wilderness Ranger at sea example, I have to ask: Doesn't your DM ever throw unexpected twists at the party? Haven't player decisions ever impacted the course of a campaign? If not then by all means have players pick the PC skills and lock them in for a lifetime.

If, on the other hand, adventures take unexpected turns, then it's better to able to adapt to the unexpected.

In the 4e version of skills my Ranger could be sailing for a year and never learn how to tie a knot, what port and starboard mean, or what "avast" or "belay" refer to. From a simulationist POV, that sucks.
 

Don Durito

Adventurer
In the 4e version of skills my Ranger could be sailing for a year and never learn how to tie a knot, what port and starboard mean, or what "avast" or "belay" refer to. From a simulationist POV, that sucks.
Does 3E handle this well? To my mind I'd probably be looking at the 2E proficiency system as a more effective way of represnting this. Modern D&D is very bad at this kind of accumulating of little things that really give a character colour. 3E looks like it should do these things well - but in my experience often seemed to run aground on a whole range of issues: lack of skill points overall for some classes (compounded by cross class issues), the feeling (whether real or not) that existing skills needed to be kept up for scaling purposes, the fact that purchases had been planned ahead and committed for prestige class entry etc.

In 13th Age I handle this by giving out extra background points each level to represent things the PCs learn (but that's a houserule - by RAW pcs in that game never gain any extra after character creation except by spending feats)
 
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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I've had that discussion with people on these boards before: Skill resolution via RP and discussion with the DM.

I have players in my group with nothing resembling a silver tongue. Do should we penalize them, forever, because they aren't a glib as someone else?

I had a player who tried to quiet a horse he was stealing by giving it some beef jerky. (Player's suggestion, not character's skill.) This highlights that character knowledge and skill is separate from player knowledge and skill. For someone in a horse-and-carriage world, the Animal Handling or Knowledge Nature needed to know that horses don't eat meat is pretty much a gimme', but the player doesn't live in that world.

For many/most skill checks I let the player describe their plan/action and use that as a circumstance modifier on the dice roll. You can get a +/- 2 on a check that way, which can be good, but you still need the skill.

As for my wilderness Ranger at sea example, I have to ask: Doesn't your DM ever throw unexpected twists at the party? Haven't player decisions ever impacted the course of a campaign? If not then by all means have players pick the PC skills and lock them in for a lifetime.

If, on the other hand, adventures take unexpected turns, then it's better to able to adapt to the unexpected.

In the 4e version of skills my Ranger could be sailing for a year and never learn how to tie a knot, what port and starboard mean, or what "avast" or "belay" refer to. From a simulationist POV, that sucks.
I'm not really speaking about using player-DM negotiation instead of character-defined skills (that goes back to OD&D), I was being a little more esoteric. I'm saying that to be as simulationist as possible within the context of a TTRPG, you want to forgo as much player input on the mechanical layer as possible. Ideally, you simply inform the DM of the character's strengths and weaknesses, direct the character like you're really immersed in the world, and let the DM handle the mechanical parts. As your character grows and changes, the DM will adjust your mechanics.

Real world, few people want to play completely divorced from the mechanics, which is why most games simulate via complex mechanical modeling.
 
In the 4e version of skills my Ranger could be sailing for a year and never learn how to tie a knot, what port and starboard mean, or what "avast" or "belay" refer to.
Not really, OT1H, there's not really a 'sailor' skill to learn, OTOH, whatever check you do make for seamanship, it is going up as he levels. But...
From a simulationist POV, that sucks.
As a simulation, D&D skills have never captured the learning curve or 'learning by doing' aspects of acquiring skills, realistically.

GURPS and, especially, BRP, do a much better job of both.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Much as I love 3rd edition, the skill system would benefit from a deep overhaul. There are some rather egregious examples: a 2nd-level Bard with 16 Charisma, using core rules only, can pump their Diplomacy check to +18 [Edit: +19] without magic. Such a character can reliably change NPC attitudes from unfriendly to friendly, or from hostile to indifferent.

The skill list is too expansive. It needs to be compressed into 12 or 14 skills, and certain skills need to be made into class features (Spellcraft, UMD). Knowledge skills need re-thinking and/or consolidating. Craft skills need an overhaul.

Synergy bonuses should be abandoned.

Spells which grant bonuses to skills should be rethought, re-levelled and probably mostly abandoned. Class features and feats which grant bonuses to skills should be carefully reconsidered.

Other than that, it works fine.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Interesting.

I still think they went too far the other way in 5e, and reduced the skills into irrelevance.

My search for a better skill system will have to move on.
There really were only a few skills that needed to be pumped up the way people here are talking about. Spot, hide and concentration were the big ones. The game boosted the hide and spot skills of monsters, and damage rose rapidly so concentration were necessary. The rest of the time it was more DM error than anything else.

A tough DC was 15, challenging 20, and formidable 25. By 5th level you could have 8 ranks and +4 in your prime stat easily, so you were at 12 in skills you were good at. That makes a tough task a 3 or higher on the roll, challenging 8 or higher and formidable needed a 13. If the PC were hitting heroic DCs(30) or nearly impossible DCs(40) often, something has gone very wrong.

The issue was that DMs often felt like a task should be challenging, but Cormak had a +15 which would mean he only needed a 5 or higher, which was easy. So they incorrectly inflated DCs to make it a challenging task, which in turn caused players to enter the arms race and put points into maxing out skills to compensate.

If the DM just assigned appropriate DCs, the players really didn't feel compelled to hyper specialize in a few skills, and cross-class skills were actually useful. My players learned fairly quickly that 5-8 ranks + stat bonus in a skill made you pretty darn good at it. They still dutifully pumped up the skills mentioned above that the game required hyper specialization in, but they had a wide variety of skill that they used and were good at.
 

schneeland

Explorer
Much as I love 3rd edition, the skill system would benefit from a deep overhaul. There are some rather egregious examples: a 2nd-level Bard with 16 Charisma, using core rules only, can pump their Diplomacy check to +18 without magic.
Are you sure? If I am not mistaken, the maximum skill rank for 2nd level is 5 (3 + level), so with an ability modifier of +3, I only arrive at a +8. Still solid, but not completely off the charts.
 
Much as I love 3rd edition, the skill system would benefit from a deep overhaul. There are some rather egregious examples: a 2nd-level Bard with 16 Charisma, using core rules only, can pump their Diplomacy check to +18 without magic. Such a character can reliably change NPC attitudes from unfriendly to friendly, or from hostile to indifferent.

The skill list is too expansive. It needs to be compressed into 12 or 14 skills, and certain skills need to be made into class features (Spellcraft, UMD). Knowledge skills need re-thinking and/or consolidating. Craft skills need an overhaul.

Synergy bonuses should be abandoned.

Spells which grant bonuses to skills should be rethought, re-levelled and probably mostly abandoned. Class features and feats which grant bonuses to skills should be carefully reconsidered.

Other than that, it works fine.
I dont think i agree with a single part of this. Including the bit about the bard.

Reliably? Heck no.
 
Are you sure? If I am not mistaken, the maximum skill rank for 2nd level is 5 (3 + level), so with an ability modifier of +3, I only arrive at a +8. Still solid, but not completely off the charts.
Even if it can pump up to +18 its not an accurate statement. Hostile isnt restricted to a specific range. Furthermore, some npcs can have personality differences that increase or decrease benchmarks fir such things. ALSO hostile verses non hostile is not the only difference between success and failure.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Are you sure? If I am not mistaken, the maximum skill rank for 2nd level is 5 (3 + level), so with an ability modifier of +3, I only arrive at a +8. Still solid, but not completely off the charts.
Bards got enough ranks to get to 5 in the three other skills that all had diplomacy synergy, so now we are at +14. Then you can add skill focus for +3 more, so now we are at +17. Not sure where the final 1 is coming from.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Are you sure? If I am not mistaken, the maximum skill rank for 2nd level is 5 (3 + level), so with an ability modifier of +3, I only arrive at a +8. Still solid, but not completely off the charts.
I'm really rusty, but synergy from 5 ranks in intimidate, sense motive, others, skill focus feat, and a class ability?
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
Much as I love 3rd edition, the skill system would benefit from a deep overhaul. There are some rather egregious examples: a 2nd-level Bard with 16 Charisma, using core rules only, can pump their Diplomacy check to +18 without magic. Such a character can reliably change NPC attitudes from unfriendly to friendly, or from hostile to indifferent.

The skill list is too expansive. It needs to be compressed into 12 or 14 skills, and certain skills need to be made into class features (Spellcraft, UMD). Knowledge skills need re-thinking and/or consolidating. Craft skills need an overhaul.

Synergy bonuses should be abandoned.

Spells which grant bonuses to skills should be rethought, re-levelled and probably mostly abandoned. Class features and feats which grant bonuses to skills should be carefully reconsidered.

Other than that, it works fine.
I just looked at the 5e sheet I'm using in my game & it has 18 skills... the 25-30 3.5 skill list was too much & there absolutely should have been a lot of skills rolled in as class features rather than getting squashed together. but 12-15 skills is wayy too few. There's not much meaningful spotlight from knowing a skill 2-3 other players at the table also probably know & will say "I want to roll that too"
 

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