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D&D 3E/3.5 the 3e skill system

miggyG777

Explorer
I thought about combining Ilbranteloths approach with the granularity of Charlaquins idea and the implementation based on your ideas, Maxperson.

Untrained: Disadvantage (Ability mod)
Novice: Ability mod
Proficient: Ability mod + proficiency bonus
Expert: Advantage (Ability mod + proficiency bonus)

Novice is gained through downtime training, usage of the skill.
Proficiency is gained like RAW.
Expert is gained by putting an extra proficiency point into a proficient skill.

This would achieve a more dynamic skill system as well as nerfing the expertise rule with double proficiency that can lead to very high modifiers causing auto successes in every situation.

Here is the Anydice program to check out the numbers (you can vary DC; PROFICIENCY; ABILITYSCORE):

 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I thought about combining Ilbranteloths approach with the granularity of Charlaquins idea and the implementation based on your ideas, Maxperson.

Untrained: Disadvantage (Ability mod)
Novice: Ability mod
Proficient: Ability mod + proficiency bonus
Expert: Advantage (Ability mod + proficiency bonus)

Novice is gained through downtime training, usage of the skill.
Proficiency is gained like RAW.
Expert is gained by putting an extra proficiency point into a proficient skill.

This would achieve a more dynamic skill system as well as nerfing the expertise rule with double proficiency that can lead to very high modifiers causing auto successes in every situation.

Here is the Anydice program to check out the numbers (you can vary DC; PROFICIENCY; ABILITYSCORE):

Personally, I like the double proficiency from expertise. I think an expert should be able to know and achieve things that someone is proficient cannot. I also prefer not to give disadvantage for untrained. It's already hard enough to hit DCs without actively being bad at at.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Even so, if someone is willing to spend 20+ skill points by 2nd level to get one thing, then that's probably the only thing they'll be very good at. at Diplomact is easy for a DM to shut down, if it's being abused: A Diplomacy check takes one minute (10 rounds) to make. If the opponent is hostile, as in, going to attack NOW, Diplomacy doesn't apply. It can't be done in time.

While I agree that using Diplomacy at all is highly circumstantial, I don't think that "hostile" means "openly belligerent and immediately about to attack" - if so, the category "Hostile" wouldn't be included in the Diplomacy DC table at all. It's a description of someone's initial disposition.

Yasser Arafat did not pull a gun on Shimon Peres, for example; yet their initial contact was certainly hostile.

Yes, shutting down Diplomacy if it's being abused is an option; wouldn't it be better if it were less readily abused?

Moreover, the skill synergies which feed Diplomacy are not from skills which are "wasted" in pursuit of maxing out the skill, as they are mostly "Face" skills, useful if the Bard is the party spokesperson/negotiator. Consider this elite array core character:

Human Bard 2: 8 14 13 12 10 15 Negotiator, Skill Focus (Diplomacy); Bluff +7 Diplomacy +18 Disguise +7 (+9 acting) Gather Info +7 Intimidate +9 Sense Motive +7 Knowledge (nobility) +6 Perform (lute) +7

So "simple" and "tough" skill checks vary, depending on the skill. Why? Because IRL some things are just harder to do than others.

This moveable baseline is problematic to me. It would be simpler if simple meant simple, and tough meant tough. This would avoid the problem of DCs migrating ever upward, in order to challenge characters at any given level.

I mean, I still play 3.5 - pretty much RAW at low levels. But I'm not oblivious to its warts.
 

Thanks Maxperson, that actually sounds like a nice way to implement it. I might try that.

I also found this approach by Ilbranteloth:



What do you guys think about this? It nerfs players with non-proficiency in skills a bit more than the RAW do and therefore make the system a bit more dynamic because not every player is somewhat good at everything.

Obviously one way to do this in RAW is that you could just say, that if you are not proficient in a skill you can't apply it to certain tasks.

But the way he uses disadvantage / advantage allows you to transform that arbitrary rule into a generally applicable rule.

One critique however was, that it interferes with other advantage / disadvantage mechanics. Ilbranteloth replied to that with stacking advantages for instance. But I am really not sure how feasible that would be, since RAW clearly state that you cannot do that.

I saw that post. It was actually suggested by Charlaquin that doing the "Advantage/Disadvantage" would cancel each other out.

So the recommendation was that instead of that, it would be treating it as

Untrained: Ability mod only
Novice: Ability mod + half-proficiency bonus
Proficient: Ability mod + proficiency bonus
Expert: Ability mod + double proficiency bonus
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I saw that post. It was actually suggested by Charlaquin that doing the "Advantage/Disadvantage" would cancel each other out.

So the recommendation was that instead of that, it would be treating it as

Untrained: Ability mod only
Novice: Ability mod + half-proficiency bonus
Proficient: Ability mod + proficiency bonus
Expert: Ability mod + double proficiency bonus

We originally played around with numerical bonuses like this. However, part of our approach was specifically because we wanted to avoid the possible +12 bonus for expertise at high levels. So we were considering a +2 bonus above the Proficiency Bonus.

In the end we felt that the extra math (as little as it is) wasn't worth the trouble. Advantage/Disadvantage handled that well. While it does potentially interfere with other advantage/disadvantage scenarios, it hasn't been that frequently that it's really mattered.

In addition, we've decided to approach Advantage/Disadvantage a bit differently as well. One of the factors we like best about using Advantage/Disadvantage vs. a flat bonus is the variability. As such, we've been experimenting with Advantage/Disadvantage giving +/- 1d4 instead. And if the circumstances warrant something greater than that, then we have been experimenting with either adding additional d4s, or increasing the die type to d6, d8, etc.

The downside to this approach, aside from the math, is that it adds a different type of variability. With the current advantage/disadvantage appraoch, it increases your chance of rolling high or low. This other approach does the same, but it also increases (or decreases) the potential total roll. We're on the fence for that.

In which case we may just stick with the possibility of stacking advantage/disadvantage in the times when we feel that circumstances increase the chances by more than +/- 25%.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Shutting down Diplomacy is so easy using the existing 3e system that it becomes a purely optional skill. DM's option.

By RAW, it takes a full minute before the dice ever hit the table. If the opponent doesn't give the character that minute, which they may not if they see other PCs casting prep spells or readying weapons (or even if they're impatient or p**sed), the Diplomacy flat out fails. Not even a dice roll.

So of all of the skills to complain about, that one is kind of silly.

Over the years I've seen a lot of abuse of rules, in a wide variety of games and editions, and it's amazing how many of those abuses get shut down if you play the rules exactly as written.

This applies to 3e as much as any other.
 

3E Diplomacy is actually a good system at base as long as you apply common sense and make some simple fixes. (I can never understand why people whined and whined about one particular area of the system which is so easily fixed.)

It's better than the whole "I roll persuasion" thing of 5e. It's clear that's it's about changing attitudes not convincing. It doesn't matter how helpful you make someone you're probably not convining them that Bigfoot is coming to their bbq and bringing whisky*. It's fatal flaw was always the fact that you could shift someone several steps in one go. You take that out, and say for example that it both takes increasingly more time (exponentially increasing time) and extra rolls to move someone's attitude further steps along.

And it's neat because it leaves room for interacting with the system without rolling.

Say you have a group of mercenaries you need to get information from. Sure the bard may be charming as hell, but their default attitude to the bard may be unfriendly (pretty boy musician in his fancy clothes and with his fancy talk). The fighter, on the other hand, he looks like he's seen some real action and knows where they're coming from, they might start off friendly with him, and if he then goes and buys them a round of drinks they may become positively helpful. No rolls needed. Of course then he still has to talk to the mercenaries in order to convince them to tell him what he wants to know - but that's something you can role-play out, now you've established the parameters.

*because everyone knows he's cheap.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This is how I would do it.

I would allow novice ability to a skill through downtime training or through game play when I felt that a PC has used a skill enough to warrant improvement. Proficiency would be from proficiencies gained at the character creation or when the game allows it, such as when choosing the skilled feat. Expert would cost a proficiency. So if your Paladin chose the Acolyte background, he could choose 4 proficiencies. However, both lists have insight and religion on them, so he could pick three and be an expert in either religion or insight, or pick only insight and religion and be an expert at both. The skilled feat would allow new proficiency or expertise in existing skills.

I would also be able to grant proficiency and expertise via in game rewards from beings or items.


It wouldn't. They don't have to sacrifice at all to become an expert and would also be able to take advantage of the Skilled feat.
I like this quite a bit.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
3E Diplomacy is actually a good system at base as long as you apply common sense and make some simple fixes. (I can never understand why people whined and whined about one particular area of the system which is so easily fixed.)

It's better than the whole "I roll persuasion" thing of 5e. It's clear that's it's about changing attitudes not convincing. It doesn't matter how helpful you make someone you're probably not convining them that Bigfoot is coming to their bbq and bringing whisky*. It's fatal flaw was always the fact that you could shift someone several steps in one go. You take that out, and say for example that it both takes increasingly more time (exponentially increasing time) and extra rolls to move someone's attitude further steps along.

And it's neat because it leaves room for interacting with the system without rolling.

Say you have a group of mercenaries you need to get information from. Sure the bard may be charming as hell, but their default attitude to the bard may be unfriendly (pretty boy musician in his fancy clothes and with his fancy talk). The fighter, on the other hand, he looks like he's seen some real action and knows where they're coming from, they might start off friendly with him, and if he then goes and buys them a round of drinks they may become positively helpful. No rolls needed. Of course then he still has to talk to the mercenaries in order to convince them to tell him what he wants to know - but that's something you can role-play out, now you've established the parameters.

*because everyone knows he's cheap.

What you are describing is similar to why I love the 5e system with one significant difference/change of focus. Passive checks.

In the AD&D non-weapon proficiency system, with a few exceptions, when you were proficient in something, it was expected that you could just do it. If you had blacksmithing, then given tools and time, you could make horseshoes. That makes sense.

But for some things, you'd need to make a judgement call as to when somebody could succeed at something more difficult. The DC system addressed this, although it strangely meant that in many games, things that you could have just done before now often required checks, since there wasn't much guidance as to when you could just do it.

3e had the Take 10/20 approach, which also makes sense - if you spend a certain amount of time attempting something you're capable of achieving, then you'll eventually succeed. This was a step in the right direction, although there is a subtle difference between things you can just do, and things that you can succeed at given enough time.

Passive checks to me were the missing link.

Now, as a DM, I have all the tools to know when I need to ask for a die roll, based on the circumstances. The Passive score tells me what PC knows how to do, which can be modified by circumstances with advantage/disadvantage. I also know what they are capable of: 20 + their modifier. Anything more challenging than that is out of reach.

If the circumstances allow them to just spend whatever amount of time they need, and the DC is between those two, then what I most need to determine is how long it will take. Most of the time I can just work that into the narrative, without any die rolls.

Die rolls are needed when something is hard enough that they won't just be able to do it, but it's within their capabilities, and there are some consequences for failure, or perhaps not immediate success. For example, trying to pick a lock while the guards are away on their rounds. The rest of the party is watching out for the guards, while the PC is trying to get the lock open. When rolling for their check, I'm actually trying to determine how long it will take, and I use the difference between the DC and their roll to do that, measured in rounds. If they are trying to find something in a wizard's library, that amount of time might be measured by the minute, 10-minute chunks (AD&D turns), or even hours. It also eliminates multiple rolls unless the circumstances change sufficiently to warrant it.

While some people might have an issue with the fewer die rolls, the reality is that we are advised to keep them to a minimum, but without solid guidance like this approach. Die rolls occur only when they really matter, otherwise the focus remains on the role-playing and narrative, instead of the mechanics. Yet it fully accounts for the character's stats and the choices made when building the PC. You might find that you tweak DCs a little bit, but I find that the published DCs are a little low for my tastes.

The other complaint is about things like the Rogue's Reliable Talent. Personally, I think that's a poor design choice, or they didn't quite grasp the powerful system that Passive checks creates. Either way, my players don't care about it at all, and when needed we're happy to replace it with another ability that they would like in exchange. That's something we would work out together, although it's never been a thing, mostly because we haven't run any PCs of that level.

This approach takes into account that the charming rogue, or charismatic paladin is always that way. I take those abilities into account when portraying the reactions of NPCs, and also encourage players to play the part.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What you are describing is similar to why I love the 5e system with one significant difference/change of focus. Passive checks.

In the AD&D non-weapon proficiency system, with a few exceptions, when you were proficient in something, it was expected that you could just do it. If you had blacksmithing, then given tools and time, you could make horseshoes. That makes sense.

But for some things, you'd need to make a judgement call as to when somebody could succeed at something more difficult. The DC system addressed this, although it strangely meant that in many games, things that you could have just done before now often required checks, since there wasn't much guidance as to when you could just do it.

3e had the Take 10/20 approach, which also makes sense - if you spend a certain amount of time attempting something you're capable of achieving, then you'll eventually succeed. This was a step in the right direction, although there is a subtle difference between things you can just do, and things that you can succeed at given enough time.

Passive checks to me were the missing link.

Now, as a DM, I have all the tools to know when I need to ask for a die roll, based on the circumstances. The Passive score tells me what PC knows how to do, which can be modified by circumstances with advantage/disadvantage. I also know what they are capable of: 20 + their modifier. Anything more challenging than that is out of reach.

If the circumstances allow them to just spend whatever amount of time they need, and the DC is between those two, then what I most need to determine is how long it will take. Most of the time I can just work that into the narrative, without any die rolls.

Die rolls are needed when something is hard enough that they won't just be able to do it, but it's within their capabilities, and there are some consequences for failure, or perhaps not immediate success. For example, trying to pick a lock while the guards are away on their rounds. The rest of the party is watching out for the guards, while the PC is trying to get the lock open. When rolling for their check, I'm actually trying to determine how long it will take, and I use the difference between the DC and their roll to do that, measured in rounds. If they are trying to find something in a wizard's library, that amount of time might be measured by the minute, 10-minute chunks (AD&D turns), or even hours. It also eliminates multiple rolls unless the circumstances change sufficiently to warrant it.

While some people might have an issue with the fewer die rolls, the reality is that we are advised to keep them to a minimum, but without solid guidance like this approach. Die rolls occur only when they really matter, otherwise the focus remains on the role-playing and narrative, instead of the mechanics. Yet it fully accounts for the character's stats and the choices made when building the PC. You might find that you tweak DCs a little bit, but I find that the published DCs are a little low for my tastes.

The other complaint is about things like the Rogue's Reliable Talent. Personally, I think that's a poor design choice, or they didn't quite grasp the powerful system that Passive checks creates. Either way, my players don't care about it at all, and when needed we're happy to replace it with another ability that they would like in exchange. That's something we would work out together, although it's never been a thing, mostly because we haven't run any PCs of that level.

This approach takes into account that the charming rogue, or charismatic paladin is always that way. I take those abilities into account when portraying the reactions of NPCs, and also encourage players to play the part.
If I read this right, you're using passive ability checks as the floor for a check?

That's entire valid, but I disagree with it. Passive checks are what happens when a PC is expending effort to do that thing over time. It's a time saving construction where you don't have to roll all the time, not a floor for active check. If a PC is on watch, I'm going to use their passive perception as the target for an assassin's stealth check to approach unseen. If the PC declares an action to specifically look at something, that's an active check, and the normal loop occurs (is there a consequence for failure, is the check not trivial, good, ask for a check). Using passive checks as a floor distorts the skill system and, as you note, almost requires DC inflation to keep things in check (heh).

Again, this is a perfectly valid way of doing things, I'm just registering a different approach and my personal dislike of it.
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
If I read this right, you're using passive ability checks as the floor for a check?

That's entire valid, but I disagree with it. Passive checks are what happens when a PC is expending effort to do that thing over time. It's a time saving construction where you don't have to roll all the time, not a floor for active check. If a PC is on watch, I'm going to use their passive perception as the target for an assassin's stealth check to approach unseen. If the PC declares an action to specifically look at something, that's an active check, and the normal loop occurs (is there a consequence for failure, is the check not trivial, good, ask for a check). Using passive checks as a floor distorts the skill system and, as you note, almost requires DC inflation to keep things in check (heh).

Again, this is a perfectly valid way of doing things, I'm just registering a different approach and my personal dislike of it.
No he has a point. I'll use myself and my cheesemaking hobby as an example.

When I first started I began making mistakes that resulted in hard grainy cheese that couldn't really be called the kind of cheese it was supposed to be and could barely be called cheese in some early cases. Problem there is I suspected a bunch of possible things I was doing wrong and things that might help. Several batches of almost goat cheese later I was doing more things right and getting into identifying my big mistakes so my goat cheese was coming out closer and closer to what it should be. Turns out I misunyhow salting should work and was tearing apart the curds to mix in salt resulting in massively damaged curds. Let's say that goat cheese is dc8 with wine soaked cheese Colby or cheddar dc12 (or several lower checks to both. Under d20 rules every batch of all three has a chance that I will take the curds after they drain out the whey and use a fork to shred them to crumbs so I can mix in salt instead of properly cutting the curds and properly salting the outer surface... it also has a decent chance that each batch will properly do all that simply from d20 plus int/wis mod Passive floor ensures that I won't suddenly forget everything I learned about the time consuming hobby (typically 36-72hours after starting before any cheese is ready for aging)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No he has a point. I'll use myself and my cheesemaking hobby as an example.

When I first started I began making mistakes that resulted in hard grainy cheese that couldn't really be called the kind of cheese it was supposed to be and could barely be called cheese in some early cases. Problem there is I suspected a bunch of possible things I was doing wrong and things that might help. Several batches of almost goat cheese later I was doing more things right and getting into identifying my big mistakes so my goat cheese was coming out closer and closer to what it should be. Turns out I misunyhow salting should work and was tearing apart the curds to mix in salt resulting in massively damaged curds. Let's say that goat cheese is dc8 with wine soaked cheese Colby or cheddar dc12 (or several lower checks to both. Under d20 rules every batch of all three has a chance that I will take the curds after they drain out the whey and use a fork to shred them to crumbs so I can mix in salt instead of properly cutting the curds and properly salting the outer surface... it also has a decent chance that each batch will properly do all that simply from d20 plus int/wis mod Passive floor ensures that I won't suddenly forget everything I learned about the time consuming hobby (typically 36-72hours after starting before any cheese is ready for aging)
If you're proficient, there should be a roll for things less than easy. Says so in the DMG. Problem solved.

I use the Middle Path in the DMG. If an action doesn't have a consequence for failure and/or is trivial, don't ask for a roll. DCs under 10 are trivial. If you tell me that you're leveraging your proficiency in cheesemaking to make a wheel of cheese and it's not for royalty or being done in a rushed manner (which there's not a lot of ways to rush cheese), that's no check, you just do it. I don't need to math up a passive check, because, on that day when you're in a terrible rush to make a wheel of cheese to impress the King, I'm going to call for a check. A failure wouldn't mean you didn't make cheese -- that seems unlikely -- but that your result will not earn you favor with the King.

Now, if you're untrained, you might not even make cheese.

In other words, using passive checks as a floor is addressing the same issues that the middle path does -- it takes checks that shouldn't be made and gives players a way to just be competent. However, not using passive floors means that there's actual drama and risk when situations call for it. Pairing that with fail forward or success at cost means helps make failing a check not be you failing to do anything right; you just don't do enough right. Binary fail/succeed is boring.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Passive floor ensures that I won't suddenly forget everything I learned about the time consuming hobby
Proper guidance for DMs also ensures that you won't suddenly forget everything you learned about cheesemaking (caseiculture?). There's a wrench in the machine, somewhere, when rolling too low means you have no skill. Oh wait, we may have found it:

Binary fail/succeed is boring.
And it also implies, due to its similarity to the hit/miss dichotomy, that a failure is a catastrophic failure. A "hit" is what you intended: you wanted to cause damage and you did so. A "miss": you did nothing, you caused no damage. Succeed: you made cheese. Fail: you made zero cheese.
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
Proper guidance for DMs also ensures that you won't suddenly forget everything you learned about cheesemaking (caseiculture?). There's a wrench in the machine, somewhere, when rolling too low means you have no skill. Oh wait, we may have found it:


And it also implies, due to its similarity to the hit/miss dichotomy, that a failure is a catastrophic failure. A "hit" is what you intended: you wanted to cause damage and you did so. A "miss": you did nothing, you caused no damage. Succeed: you made cheese. Fail: you made zero cheese.
I didn't expect anyone to take up the cheesemaking example, tbh it's dead simple as long as you have theneeded equipment/cultures & have the basics down Here's the four steps involved in making goat cheese but even advanced cheeses are not significantly more involved despite having a couple more steps or ways you could do things horribly wrong. For what it's worth, queso blanco, mozzarella, & goat cheese are some of the easiest beginner cheeses to start with & don't require much investment to get started on :D
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
oh boy, I missed this thread somehow. I'll only talk about stuff that somehow hasn't come up yet. also caveat: a lot of my grievances stem from misconceptions others had about the skill system, but I had these misconceptions, too, and when they're common enough it's basically good as RAW (like these are things I ran into among completely different and unrelated groups of people, so I'm assuming gamers everywhere had these misconceptions).

trained vs. untrained: wtf
this issue is twofold for me.

I know some people here are arguing about the need to max out Tumble, but someone once pointed out how since Tumble is a trained skill it's always worth blowing a skill point into it at character creation just for the ability to tumble in the first place. someone else pointed out that spreading your skill points around is a valid strategy since so many skills are trained. I think people tend to forget that while 3.x had a more granular skill system, it still had a lot of on/off skills as well. since your average game rarely makes it past level 10 breadth seemed to trump depth a lot of the time, and yeah I found myself doing this a lot in 3.5, or at the very least struggling to have at least a few decent skills while not being a complete idiot about how the world works.

this leads into the other part which was this belief that you need to be "trained" in any skill in order to even use it to begin with. this one wasn't as common among more established groups, but it feels indicative of how much newer players actually studied the rules 3.x, which were byzantine and—well you get the point.

why take 10? how even is take 20?
a question that very few people I knew could get right back then: what skills can you take 10 on? this seemed like a confusing issue underlying the game until one day I realized the only skill that says you can't take a 10 on is Use Magic Item*. then I had to get over suddenly remembering all those times taking 10 could've helped me get out of some terrible situations. also I had only one DM I trusted enough to tell this to, and he was like "oh, huh, you're right", any other DM probably would've started a long winded argument that would have ended in altering take 10 to something worse (I had some bad DM's at the time). I think the real issue for me is take 10 should have been the DM using common sense to decide that "yeah of course your ranger who fought goblins and studied them for years knows what a goblin looks like". at least I hope that's normal these days (yes I had DM's that bad).

and who decided how take 20 works? how does the mechanic even make any sense? please, some explain this to me, when's the last time irl you fucked something 19 times in a row and suddenly wildly succeeded the 20th time?

knowledge, and background skills
tangentially related to taking 10, but I don't like how knowledge works. I don't like the Schrodinger's level of determination over whether or not my character knows something, even though they likely would given the circumstances of the game. it's possible I'm misunderstanding this. but as it has played out for me: 1) if I roll knowledge in battle to figure out something about an enemy monster and fail I just know nothing about this monster. never mind if backstory says I do know something, the skill just doesn't work that way. 2) attempting to know more about something means risking knowing nothing at all about that thing. assuming I am able to take 10 on a knowledge skill trying to roll higher than that means I can roll under a 10 and end up knowing nothing. why is this?

knowledge also falls under the category of what I thought were "background skills", including crafting and profession. some people regard those throwaway skills, but it's also like "if my character was a blacksmith, but doesn't have ranks in profession (blacksmith) or craft (blacksmithing), was he really a blacksmith?". some people did make this sort of thing an issue, and I already have to deal with distributing my meager amount of skill points across 30+ skills, I know I don't have to have these skills, but why even have them to begin with?
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
If you're proficient, there should be a roll for things less than easy. Says so in the DMG. Problem solved.

I use the Middle Path in the DMG. If an action doesn't have a consequence for failure and/or is trivial, don't ask for a roll. DCs under 10 are trivial. If you tell me that you're leveraging your proficiency in cheesemaking to make a wheel of cheese and it's not for royalty or being done in a rushed manner (which there's not a lot of ways to rush cheese), that's no check, you just do it. I don't need to math up a passive check, because, on that day when you're in a terrible rush to make a wheel of cheese to impress the King, I'm going to call for a check. A failure wouldn't mean you didn't make cheese -- that seems unlikely -- but that your result will not earn you favor with the King.

Now, if you're untrained, you might not even make cheese.

In other words, using passive checks as a floor is addressing the same issues that the middle path does -- it takes checks that shouldn't be made and gives players a way to just be competent. However, not using passive floors means that there's actual drama and risk when situations call for it. Pairing that with fail forward or success at cost means helps make failing a check not be you failing to do anything right; you just don't do enough right. Binary fail/succeed is boring.

Thus my statement that circumstances can (and should) be taken into account, applying advantage/disadvantage as needed. Disadvantage for a Passive check is -5, thus making many things that would otherwise be easy enough to do now require a check.

In other words: there's actual drama and risk when situations call for it. It just helps you determine, consistently and fairly, when the situation calls for it.

I'm not a fan of fail forward, but I fully embrace partial success/failure (and my example of time to complete a task can be considered either). We have standard break points as well, typically success/failure by 5 or more, 10 and more, natural 1 or 20, etc. However, there are still a lot of checks that are a binary success/failure regardless.

For me, any system of rules is a framework for the DM to adjudicate the action, not a strict set of rules to follow slavishly. So even if a PC's Passive check would normally indicate success, it's the action at the table that might call for a check anyway. But by using the Passive checks as the usual floor, it makes it extremely easy to make those decisions, and also easily differentiates the abilities of the PCs in a meaningful way.

Combine that with our usual approach of non-proficient = ability modifier + disadvantage, proficient = ability score + proficiency modifier, and expertise is the same as proficiency + advantage, and the possibility that advantage/disadvantage can stack, it creates a complete framework for very quick and easy adjudication. As a DM, you know almost instantly whether a die roll is normally necessary, and makes it easier to identify the times, especially the exceptions, when calling for a die roll will actually enhance the ongoing narrative. Actually asking for a check itself enhances the suspense at the table because you're no longer calling for trivial checks.

That's ultimately what I found that was missing from all of the other systems I've tried, including the D&D systems over the years. The advice is to only call for a die roll when it matters. But by not setting a floor based on the skill of the PCs, you're ignoring part of what makes each character unique - their specific set of skills and their level of proficiency.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Thus my statement that circumstances can (and should) be taken into account, applying advantage/disadvantage as needed. Disadvantage for a Passive check is -5, thus making many things that would otherwise be easy enough to do now require a check.

In other words: there's actual drama and risk when situations call for it. It just helps you determine, consistently and fairly, when the situation calls for it.

I'm not a fan of fail forward, but I fully embrace partial success/failure (and my example of time to complete a task can be considered either). We have standard break points as well, typically success/failure by 5 or more, 10 and more, natural 1 or 20, etc. However, there are still a lot of checks that are a binary success/failure regardless.

For me, any system of rules is a framework for the DM to adjudicate the action, not a strict set of rules to follow slavishly. So even if a PC's Passive check would normally indicate success, it's the action at the table that might call for a check anyway. But by using the Passive checks as the usual floor, it makes it extremely easy to make those decisions, and also easily differentiates the abilities of the PCs in a meaningful way.

Combine that with our usual approach of non-proficient = ability modifier + disadvantage, proficient = ability score + proficiency modifier, and expertise is the same as proficiency + advantage, and the possibility that advantage/disadvantage can stack, it creates a complete framework for very quick and easy adjudication. As a DM, you know almost instantly whether a die roll is normally necessary, and makes it easier to identify the times, especially the exceptions, when calling for a die roll will actually enhance the ongoing narrative. Actually asking for a check itself enhances the suspense at the table because you're no longer calling for trivial checks.

That's ultimately what I found that was missing from all of the other systems I've tried, including the D&D systems over the years. The advice is to only call for a die roll when it matters. But by not setting a floor based on the skill of the PCs, you're ignoring part of what makes each character unique - their specific set of skills and their level of proficiency.
I fail to understand how I can possibly be ignoring skills and proficiency just by calling for checks normally. This is a bridge too far -- that the game doesn't acknowledge or represent skill or proficiency unless a passive floor is installed. That's just a weird thing to say.

I don't allow passive checks to be a floor. You end up with things like a passive 25 perception check with a skill bonus of +10 (observant feat). This means that the PC autosucceeds on very hard perception checks at all times (absent disad) but can only succeed on an observation skill check actually rolled about 30% of the time. That's just odd stuff, there. To make that work, you'd have to have a host of other houserules to level it out, and I'm already past my limit of keeping track of PC stats if I tried to remember what their passive scores are. Way too much work for wonky results and not much improvement over just calling for checks when appropriate.

Passive scores represent constant effort over time. It's the score you use when on watch, or if you're looking for traps down a long hall, or other, constant effort tasks. Normally, according to the PHB play loop and using the middle path from the DMG, you'd only ever call for a check when the PC states an action with an uncertain result, the task is achievable and not trivial (this is based on the task, not the PC stats), and there's a consequence for failure. That pretty much solves the calling for trivial checks problem, because you'll only call for checks when these things apply. And, the neat thing, is you don't care what the PC stats are -- the DC should be based on the difficulty of the action attempted. So, if you call for a check and the PC can autobeat it with their stat, they feel super awesome and the thing happens. It's a neat way to do exactly what you're talking about -- making PC skills and proficiency count -- without ever even having to think about what the PC's stats actually are. They're going to try to attempt actions that align with their abilities and PC desires, and you just adjudicate and it comes out in the wash.

And, I say this after having tried what you're talking about. I even further codified skills and bonuses to attempt to achieve skill perfection. It took getting frustrated and then actually listening to a few other ideas from posters here (shocking, I know) to get to the point that I was doing way, way too much work to get a result I didn't actually like. I tried the rules, and, wouldn't you know, they actually work pretty well. I don't fret it, my players are having more fun, and I'm having more fun. It's cool.

But, that's my way, not THE way. I'm glad you have a system that works for you, I just find it to be way too much work for not enough payoff. Especially the knock-on effects of having to houserule other things to fit it in and the DC inflation.
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
I fail to understand how I can possibly be ignoring skills and proficiency just by calling for checks normally. This is a bridge too far -- that the game doesn't acknowledge or represent skill or proficiency unless a passive floor is installed. That's just a weird thing to say.

I don't allow passive checks to be a floor. You end up with things like a passive 25 perception check with a skill bonus of +10 (observant feat). This means that the PC autosucceeds on very hard perception checks at all times (absent disad) but can only succeed on an observation skill check actually rolled about 30% of the time. That's just odd stuff, there. To make that work, you'd have to have a host of other houserules to level it out, and I'm already past my limit of keeping track of PC stats if I tried to remember what their passive scores are. Way too much work for wonky results and not much improvement over just calling for checks when appropriate.

Passive scores represent constant effort over time. It's the score you use when on watch, or if you're looking for traps down a long hall, or other, constant effort tasks. Normally, according to the PHB play loop and using the middle path from the DMG, you'd only ever call for a check when the PC states an action with an uncertain result, the task is achievable and not trivial (this is based on the task, not the PC stats), and there's a consequence for failure. That pretty much solves the calling for trivial checks problem, because you'll only call for checks when these things apply. And, the neat thing, is you don't care what the PC stats are -- the DC should be based on the difficulty of the action attempted. So, if you call for a check and the PC can autobeat it with their stat, they feel super awesome and the thing happens. It's a neat way to do exactly what you're talking about -- making PC skills and proficiency count -- without ever even having to think about what the PC's stats actually are. They're going to try to attempt actions that align with their abilities and PC desires, and you just adjudicate and it comes out in the wash.

And, I say this after having tried what you're talking about. I even further codified skills and bonuses to attempt to achieve skill perfection. It took getting frustrated and then actually listening to a few other ideas from posters here (shocking, I know) to get to the point that I was doing way, way too much work to get a result I didn't actually like. I tried the rules, and, wouldn't you know, they actually work pretty well. I don't fret it, my players are having more fun, and I'm having more fun. It's cool.

But, that's my way, not THE way. I'm glad you have a system that works for you, I just find it to be way too much work for not enough payoff. Especially the knock-on effects of having to houserule other things to fit it in and the DC inflation.
And here people have been arguing how things that shatter bounded accuracy aren't a problem through this and other threads.
I'm not sure how you figure "around 30%" chance of rolling 1-9 on a d20 though
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
And here people have been arguing how things that shatter bounded accuracy aren't a problem through this and other threads.
I'm not sure how you figure "around 30%" chance of rolling 1-9 on a d20 though
DC is 25, skill bonus is +10, you need a 15+, not 10-.

And, no, if you don't use passive scores as a floor, this isn't a breaking event. I means they keep good watch. That's at the cost of a major resource, and only works for repetitive tasks. Seems fair.
 

why take 10? how even is take 20?
a question that very few people I knew could get right back then: what skills can you take 10 on? this seemed like a confusing issue underlying the game until one day I realized the only skill that says you can't take a 10 on is Use Magic Item*. then I had to get over suddenly remembering all those times taking 10 could've helped me get out of some terrible situations. also I had only one DM I trusted enough to tell this to, and he was like "oh, huh, you're right", any other DM probably would've started a long winded argument that would have ended in altering take 10 to something worse (I had some bad DM's at the time). I think the real issue for me is take 10 should have been the DM using common sense to decide that "yeah of course your ranger who fought goblins and studied them for years knows what a goblin looks like". at least I hope that's normal these days (yes I had DM's that bad).

Right, Take 10 was primarily restricted by situations, rather than by skill. The general rule there was, "if someone is trying to kill you, you can't take 10."

and who decided how take 20 works? how does the mechanic even make any sense? please, some explain this to me, when's the last time irl you ****ed something 19 times in a row and suddenly wildly succeeded the 20th time?

Dark Souls III
 

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