log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General The "Jack Of All Trades" is a cursed archetype in tabletop RPGs


log in or register to remove this ad


Yaarel

Mind Mage
I prefer the "renaissance" term to "JOAT", however, because a bard learns what player apply to the build and generally does a little bit of everything but generally does a couple of things fairly well.

I prefer "renaissance" ... renaissance folk too. Maybe "polymath" (student of many things). As in the case of Leonardo, Newton, and others, these are superlative masters of some of their areas of expertise.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The thing is, the rules encourage you to specialize, and the assumed playstyle does as well. The DM and the players have to make a real effort to make a JOAT character feel equal to the rest of the party. Ultimately, it's a system issue.
IME, this is wildly untrue. I've never put any extra effort into any of the Jacks in my 5e or 4e games, and I didn't need any special effort from my DMs, either. I primarily played Jacks of all trades until a few years ago when I started to really get into more focused archetypes. It fits my ADHD and how I approach life, so it's natural for me to RP those characters.

Being able to help in every single situation, and being able to say, "oh no one else can do that at all? No worries I'm actually rather good at it." in a wide range of situations, is very helpful, and in some systems the Jack facilitates group tactics, making the entire team more effective most of the time.

This gets a bit into how I'd redesign the Ranger, actually, because I think it is a better conceptual fit for the Jack of All Trades than the Bard is.

In a discussion a while ago about rangers, someone claimed that Pass Without Trace makes the Ranger a better scout than the Rogue. I vociferously disagree with that, but it does make the Ranger really good at team stealth, and I think that is an angle that Ranger design should lean into. If you're using journey rules where everyone has a role and makes a check, the Ranger can make their role check and help another PC with their's. In their favored terrain, it's two other PCs. When climbing, they can go first and if they succeed by 5 or more on an athletic's check, they can give up to X other climbers a +d4. Etc.

Then, give them the actual Jack of All Trades feature, and the ability to grant half proficiency to the whole team on a group check X per day.
 

rmcoen

Explorer
Seems like the easiest design of a JOAT might be something specifically intended to be 2nd or 3rd best at everything, and then have a pool of dice that can be added to skills. Not exactly Bardic Inspiration; this is meant as a limited pool of talent "surges" that bring you up to snuff at whatever task you're trying. so the Rogue might be Stealth +8 at 1st level with their expertise, while the JOAT is +5, but the JOAT can spend a d4 from her pool when she needs to really be Stealthy. The Wizard is +6 at Arcana while the JOAT is +4... plus that d4 for some obscure piece of lore they remember from research/rumor/song. But then the barbarian wants to go tree climbing, with his +6 Athletics, and the JOAT is only +3, and kinda tired from sneaking with the Rogue and item loring with the Wizard. "Have fun!" she waves from the ground.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Seems like the easiest design of a JOAT might be something specifically intended to be 2nd or 3rd best at everything, and then have a pool of dice that can be added to skills. Not exactly Bardic Inspiration; this is meant as a limited pool of talent "surges" that bring you up to snuff at whatever task you're trying. so the Rogue might be Stealth +8 at 1st level with their expertise, while the JOAT is +5, but the JOAT can spend a d4 from her pool when she needs to really be Stealthy. The Wizard is +6 at Arcana while the JOAT is +4... plus that d4 for some obscure piece of lore they remember from research/rumor/song. But then the barbarian wants to go tree climbing, with his +6 Athletics, and the JOAT is only +3, and kinda tired from sneaking with the Rogue and item loring with the Wizard. "Have fun!" she waves from the ground.
Mind if I steal this for my Ranger concept?
 

MGibster

Legend
The thing is, the rules encourage you to specialize, and the assumed playstyle does as well. The DM and the players have to make a real effort to make a JOAT character feel equal to the rest of the party. Ultimately, it's a system issue.
You are absolutely right. I don't think it's as bad in 5th edition as it was in 3rd edition but its still there.
 


rmcoen

Explorer
You are absolutely right. I don't think it's as bad in 5th edition as it was in 3rd edition but its still there.
I agree with this (not that I love 5e). With Bounded Accuracy as a concept across the board, my INT 12 sorcerer (+4 at 5th) who is proficient in Arcana is just not that far behind the INT 18 wizard (+7 at 5th). Both of us can reasonably frequently succeed even at DC 15 checks - although the wizard is obviously a lot more reliable at it! The INT 10 warlock in my game who fancies himself a detective doesn't feel worthless with his +3 Investigation checks (and though his Stealth check of +0 is a bit lacking, he can cast invisibility and hold still...).

In 3e and PF1, though, if you didn't have max ranks in a skill, don't bother putting in any. Heck, the recent Pathfinder CRPGs (Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous) just straight up assume you can only max-rank a couple skills, and thus just have you pick which ones you are maxing!
 

In 3e [...] , though, if you didn't have max ranks in a skill, don't bother putting in any.
Here I disagree.
If you take vanilla 3e or even 3.5 there are only a few classes that need a skill at max (bard with performance and spellcasters will spellcraft and concentration). Everything else can be a lot lower, as soon as you as a DM use DC 10 to 25 usually and accept, that a rogue IS EXCEPTIONALLY competent in many skills. If you raise the baseline to the rogue, then everyone else feels very bad with just 2 base skill points.
Also if you take to heart, that taking 10 is often ok and taking 20 is the preferred method for many tasks (e.g. picking a lock) then suddenly everyon has a better game.
It is sad that it took me years to actually realize how the design butifully works.
If just cross class skills were explicitely called "normal skills" and class skills would be called "expert skills". And of course, the "required" skills were just removed...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Feel free! It's not entirely unique, although I wrote it as I thought it. In reflection, the fighter/rogue(scout) IMC uses something called Hunter's Sense to add a d4 to his Survival and Perception checks, which is a lot like this idea.
Yeah! I am think of a scaling die that can be added to damage when you’ve marked a target, and can be added to certain skills.
I agree with this (not that I love 5e). With Bounded Accuracy as a concept across the board, my INT 12 sorcerer (+4 at 5th) who is proficient in Arcana is just not that far behind the INT 18 wizard (+7 at 5th). Both of us can reasonably frequently succeed even at DC 15 checks - although the wizard is obviously a lot more reliable at it! The INT 10 warlock in my game who fancies himself a detective doesn't feel worthless with his +3 Investigation checks (and though his Stealth check of +0 is a bit lacking, he can cast invisibility and hold still...).

In 3e and PF1, though, if you didn't have max ranks in a skill, don't bother putting in any. Heck, the recent Pathfinder CRPGs (Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous) just straight up assume you can only max-rank a couple skills, and thus just have you pick which ones you are maxing!
God I’d love to see 5e have an optional rule I don’t have to figure out in between all my other projects that gives everyone skill ranks while keeping the band of possible modifiers within bounded accuracy.
 

Ashrym

Hero
Here I disagree.
If you take vanilla 3e or even 3.5 there are only a few classes that need a skill at max (bard with performance and spellcasters will spellcraft and concentration). Everything else can be a lot lower, as soon as you as a DM use DC 10 to 25 usually and accept, that a rogue IS EXCEPTIONALLY competent in many skills. If you raise the baseline to the rogue, then everyone else feels very bad with just 2 base skill points.
Also if you take to heart, that taking 10 is often ok and taking 20 is the preferred method for many tasks (e.g. picking a lock) then suddenly everyon has a better game.
It is sad that it took me years to actually realize how the design butifully works.
If just cross class skills were explicitely called "normal skills" and class skills would be called "expert skills". And of course, the "required" skills were just removed...
I think the original intent was splitting up points among skills but DC's escalated and things like epic rules appeared.

IME it was more common to scale the DC's to challenge the upper limits possible than to maintain lower DC's, and players wanted to focus on those high possibilities.

I like 5e's approach more.
 

I think the original intent was splitting up points among skills but DC's escalated and things like epic rules appeared.

IME it was more common to scale the DC's to challenge the upper limits possible than to maintain lower DC's, and players wanted to focus on those high possibilities.

I like 5e's approach more.
Epic rules were terrible... Not bad, but very very terrible. When I saw the book, i knew exactly how bad it would be...

I also did the mistake of scaling DCs up for a while. But when I noticed, that all you get then is an arms race of rogue vs perception instead of a game where rogues feel awesome. And instead of a game, where the fighter feels ok to a game where a fighter never bothers, I scaled things down.

I also like the 5e approach better. Skill training is about what cross class skills gave you (at first level) and expertise is similar to class skills.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
A jack of all trades character class has never been good design in a team RPG, and this is due to the fact that you can only do one thing at once so the definition of the concept is that you are always doing something you aren't the best at.

It works in a solo/team cRPG because the PCs in most CRPGs are Special and surrounded by NPCs who are, ultimately, not as good at things as they are. If you take, for example, a reasonably skilled player playing as Commander Shepherd your guns are probably doing more damage than those of your squadmates no matter which class you pick assuming you care enough about shooting to use them at all. Because, being a PC surrounded by NPCs you are awesome - your choice is how to be awesome and "I'm awesome because I'm as good as anyone at anything" works.

But in a team based RPG your team mates are masters of things. A Jack Of All Trades Master of None can only do one thing at once so they are never ever doing anything they are a master at. They are always second rate compared to other party members. And they can't even do everything at once, stacking synergies, due to the action economy and due to that being something they would be a master at.

In D&D 5e it is worse than that because there are a number of hybrid characters with secondary areas. A paladin, for example, is a primary brawler and secondary healer and secondary face. By contrast a melee cleric is a primary healer and secondary brawler. A "jack of all trades" brawls like a cleric and heals like a paladin. And stealths at best like a non-Shadow monk, but not like a rogue, ranger, or shadow monk.

So given that most characters are flexible and should be able to contribute in all three pillars (meaning they should have at least three areas of reasonable expertise of which a non-JOAT class should be a master of at least one) you're down to at least the fourth and probably the fifth or sixth area a class contributes in before a Jack of All Trades nature means that its area of all trades is better than the mediocrity of another class unless they are actually a master of something, exploiting synergies.
I think that the OP is the wrong way to look at it.

Being a jack of all trades means that you are good at everything, but not the best. The way d20 works, the best will still fail at a lot of things that you succeed at, thereby ensuring that the party has the best chance of success. What's more, the jack of all trades gets to participate well at everything, where the specialists often either sit on the sidelines or have little chance of success in some areas.

The jack of all trades has mastered something. He has mastered being able to contribute well at everything he tries. No other archetype can say that.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top