D&D 5E The skill system is one dimensional.

Jaeger

That someone better
I've argued before that if we had to pick one basic task resolution system to run the game on, it would be better to give everyone access to low level spells than skills; assigning a limited daily resource to overcome problems and playing a press-your luck game as you run out of it is more interesting than the usual reactive skill rolls. At least then players have a choice of what they prepare to do each day, when they sped their resources, and so on. Skills don't have very good gameplay.

Assuming that you are referring to 5e D&D - in many way it is a game that design wise is still bound by nostalgic expectations.
That being said; the idea of Skills working the same way that Magic does has a far better chance of gaining traction than converting D&D's magic system to some kind of casting roll.

I do agree that Skills don't have good gameplay in D&D, largely because they have always been a tacked on afterthought.
 

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Imagine that you had a spell and you wanted to create an upgraded version of that spell for a higher level spell slot, this spell need not be identical to the previous one, but it needs to feel thematically related. You can start by just looking at the spell you want to upgrade and consider some parameters. You might increase damage, you might change casting time, you might change duration etc. etc in short there are plenty of different ways you can change this spell. Consider Fireball vs Delayed Blast Fireball. One is an upgraded version of the other spell at a higher level and with several things having changed. They didn't just change the DC. When you think about this system and how to improve components of it, it is natural to think of things changing in more than a single way. Skills, though, are not like this. All skills are one dimensional, they only upgrade in one single way. Whoah +10 athletics! Amazing! No it's just that you're slightly more likely to pass that DC whatever check than if you had a +9. Yeah sure the number is higher but what does it do? What actually changes? Nothing. In my opinion this design is bad. It's particularily annoying because it makes people think about their skills as just numbers, which is quite different from how people think about spells. A low level wizard knows that at a higher level he will be able to cast wish or dimension door. A low level fighter knows that at a higher level he will be slightly more likely to succeed a DC 18 athletics check. In my opinion the current system is excessively granular while at the same time considering improvements only along one dimension. It's focused on maximising this one single number that represents how likely you are to succeed if you use that skill. It's uninteresting. Isn't it more interesting to think about skills as something that changes how you can interact with the world? It's not interesting to know that you have a 50% chance of picking this one lock, but it's interesting to know that you have a 50% chance of picking that lock without any tools at hand, just using your hands and nothing else. The bard is so good at card tricks that he can fascinate his audience. The fighter is a master of athletics, he can swim in full plate with no effort. The paladin can intimidate armies alone. The wizard can copy any book from memory that he has read once. But D&D is too focused on these tiny numbers and how they improve by 1 or 2 now and then and then giving us pages upon pages of spells, but barely anything skill related.

The Champion subclass solved this, and feats or battlemaster maneuvers can also handle it. Really any arbitrary class feature can do so.
 


MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
The Champion subclass solved this, and feats or battlemaster maneuvers can also handle it. Really any arbitrary class feature can do so.
Solve what, specifically?

Yes it's possible for class features to have more of an impact than skills. You can just look at the impact hierarchy:
  • At the top you have spells.
  • Class features are often very impactful, but some are absolute duds.
  • Third place you have skills. They have almost no rules, so you can never be certain how they work.

As you can see, spells and class features are above skills, so they pretty much do solve this problem. That's why the task is to make skills more like class features.

Battlemaster maneuvers are completely irrelevant to my main point. They're purely combat related and they don't really scale. And I really cannot see what the Champion brings to the table. It's one of the worst subclasses in the game, almost like having no subclass at all.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It is just so table dependent. I feel like wherever you are playing, a place where skills are anemic and always overrun by spells, is a place I wouldn't enjoy. But I really have never seen it happen. I have seen where the wizard is the utility expert and always solving problems. But that same wizard was trash in combat compared to the cleric, barbarian, rogue, and warlock.
Okay. I generally have an extremely dim opinion of this approach to game balance. Having nothing relevant to contribute in majorly important gameplay arenas is a very bad thing.

I can see an argument against wanting the wizard to have to choose a path like all other classes, instead of getting to choose their path every morning they wake up. But I have found, even that problem to be small.
Whereas I have not. In both older-school stuff (Labyrinth Lord, specifically) and newer-school stuff, I have both directly and indirectly seen even allegedly "limited" Wizards completely trounce adventures with just a handful of generically good spells (fly, haste, phantom steed; invisibility, rope trick, alter self; charm person, disguise self.)

Can I ask a question. Can you give some examples from your table that highlights skill checks as being anemic in value?


(This is not a gotchya question. It is me simply trying to understand how this is such a problem for your table.)
Well, I would have to reach back to 3e for some of the examples of my own play, as I don't play much 5e and don't really intend to play more. But I do see the way others describe it and shake my head at how horribly limited skills become in many others' hands, vs. how my experience with a different but related system did exactly the opposite, and made skills expansive, impactful, and almost always relevant.
 

Okay. I generally have an extremely dim opinion of this approach to game balance. Having nothing relevant to contribute in majorly important gameplay arenas is a very bad thing.
I did not say they contributed nothing. I said they were trash compared to their counterparts. So they did 15 points of damage and an effect here or there compared to 25 points of damage and an effect here or there. A lot of players online seem to have a problem with this. Almost all tables and all players I have spent time with, do not. In person, it is easy for them to understand the tradeoff. They could do 25 damage with effects if they wanted, yet they opted not to. Most people understand this.
Whereas I have not. In both older-school stuff (Labyrinth Lord, specifically) and newer-school stuff, I have both directly and indirectly seen even allegedly "limited" Wizards completely trounce adventures with just a handful of generically good spells (fly, haste, phantom steed; invisibility, rope trick, alter self; charm person, disguise self.)
I have never seen them trounce adventures. I have seen them easily navigate a single scenario while using their resources. I have done it many times; use fly to get out of trouble while on a mountain top, only to have it come back and bite me in the next scene when I wish I still had the ability to fly.
Well, I would have to reach back to 3e for some of the examples of my own play, as I don't play much 5e and don't really intend to play more. But I do see the way others describe it and shake my head at how horribly limited skills become in many others' hands, vs. how my experience with a different but related system did exactly the opposite, and made skills expansive, impactful, and almost always relevant.
Yes. I think for some players that comparison is correct. I think for the majority it is not. The masses seem to like skills the way they are. And that implies that their DMs are not making their skills anemic. At least that is my take.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I did not say they contributed nothing. I said they were trash compared to their counterparts. So they did 15 points of damage and an effect here or there compared to 25 points of damage and an effect here or there. A lot of players online seem to have a problem with this. Almost all tables and all players I have spent time with, do not. In person, it is easy for them to understand the tradeoff. They could do 25 damage with effects if they wanted, yet they opted not to. Most people understand this.
Note the word you left out of the bolded bit: nothing relevant to contribute.

Also, what level are you that a whole fight is only (about) 90-140 HP, in 5e where HP growth is one of the only ways for monsters to grow? At the levels when a caster is actually spell-starved, 1-4ish, sure, things are better.

I have never seen them trounce adventures. I have seen them easily navigate a single scenario while using their resources. I have done it many times; use fly to get out of trouble while on a mountain top, only to have it come back and bite me in the next scene when I wish I still had the ability to fly.
And then they immediately rest, because resting to restore the group's strongest abilities is a major thing.

I've been playing quite a bit of BG3 co-op lately. We've very much noticed how huge it is to long rest after every other fight. It makes a very big difference, especially with spells that truly nix non-combat challenges.

Yes. I think for some players that comparison is correct. I think for the majority it is not. The masses seem to like skills the way they are. And that implies that their DMs are not making their skills anemic. At least that is my take.
I think it is extremely easy to speak for the masses when you have no data beyond lived experience.
 

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