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

DataDwarf

Explorer
Sound a lot like Castles & Crusades. I kind of like it, but it does result in weird scenarios where Wisdom-based classes like Clerics are suddenly better than rangers at tracking and wilderness survival.
There is no requirement (even in 5e) to have to use Wisdom for Tracking or Survival. There are arguments for the use of almost all the 6 base abilities depending on the situation.

Regardless, my solution to this is to use a trained vs untrained die for skill checks in my games. If you have a reasonable argument that you would be trained in a skill you use a d20 for the check, otherwise you use a d10. The DC does not change.
 

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MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
I will disagree with the premise. Reason being... skills should not be a "mechanics mini-game" within an RPG.

D&D Combat is a "mini-game". You can strip the entire system out of the RPG and play it on its own-- and we know this because WotC has actually created board games that specifically do this. They remove the roleplaying from games like Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt to just have the combat mini-game.
That's specifically not what I'm doing though. What I want is a subsystem that actually gives abilities to the PCs so that you know better what it is your character is actually good at. These tiny numerical differences are much less interesting.

But ability checks and skills that not that. And they shouldn't be that. What they are is giving us 'Yes' / 'No' answers to the questions regarding our narrative experiences within the roleplaying. We don't play "skills" to play skills-- we use skills as a randomizers to describing our actions within the story. We tell the DM what it is we want our characters to do in the story... and the ability check (with or without skills added) is there purely for the DM to help them decide how successful the action was. That's it. Because whatever the result, the DM will then narratively describe what happens.
That thing with yes/no answers is exactly my point. Right now skills don't even do that. I mean I'll just construct a simple right here to demonstrate:

Consider a barbarian with an athletics skill. Consider the fundamental question: does this allow him to force open a locked gate? The answer isn't yes or no. The answer is maybe. Because the existence of the skill answers not the question whether or not you can, but whether or not you can attempt it. It takes bounded accuracy breaking shenanigans for a skill to actually answer your question accurately. At some point you might be so good that you don't even need to roll.

Now consider a wizard with dimension door in the same scenario. A fundamental question here is: can I teleport behind this locked gate? Now what does the spell do? It answers that exact yes or no question. It just says yes. No question about it. The GM can of course screw the player over by having an anti-magic field, but otherwise the spell works without question.

I want to get rid of the tiny modifier naughty word thinking around skills and add a more robust system that gives you some things that you can do, something that actually improves as you level. Less fiddly bits and pointless numbers. Less GM fiat. More real power.
 

Imaro

Legend
That's specifically not what I'm doing though. What I want is a subsystem that actually gives abilities to the PCs so that you know better what it is your character is actually good at. These tiny numerical differences are much less interesting.


That thing with yes/no answers is exactly my point. Right now skills don't even do that. I mean I'll just construct a simple right here to demonstrate:

Consider a barbarian with an athletics skill. Consider the fundamental question: does this allow him to force open a locked gate? The answer isn't yes or no. The answer is maybe. Because the existence of the skill answers not the question whether or not you can, but whether or not you can attempt it. It takes bounded accuracy breaking shenanigans for a skill to actually answer your question accurately. At some point you might be so good that you don't even need to roll.

Now consider a wizard with dimension door in the same scenario. A fundamental question here is: can I teleport behind this locked gate? Now what does the spell do? It answers that exact yes or no question. It just says yes. No question about it. The GM can of course screw the player over by having an anti-magic field, but otherwise the spell works without question.

I want to get rid of the tiny modifier naughty word thinking around skills and add a more robust system that gives you some things that you can do, something that actually improves as you level. Less fiddly bits and pointless numbers. Less GM fiat. More real power.

Why not use the variant rule for auto-success if you want a skill to answer said question?
 

DaedalusX51

Explorer
That's specifically not what I'm doing though. What I want is a subsystem that actually gives abilities to the PCs so that you know better what it is your character is actually good at. These tiny numerical differences are much less interesting.


That thing with yes/no answers is exactly my point. Right now skills don't even do that. I mean I'll just construct a simple right here to demonstrate:

Consider a barbarian with an athletics skill. Consider the fundamental question: does this allow him to force open a locked gate? The answer isn't yes or no. The answer is maybe. Because the existence of the skill answers not the question whether or not you can, but whether or not you can attempt it. It takes bounded accuracy breaking shenanigans for a skill to actually answer your question accurately. At some point you might be so good that you don't even need to roll.

Now consider a wizard with dimension door in the same scenario. A fundamental question here is: can I teleport behind this locked gate? Now what does the spell do? It answers that exact yes or no question. It just says yes. No question about it. The GM can of course screw the player over by having an anti-magic field, but otherwise the spell works without question.

I want to get rid of the tiny modifier naughty word thinking around skills and add a more robust system that gives you some things that you can do, something that actually improves as you level. Less fiddly bits and pointless numbers. Less GM fiat. More real power.
Try out Dungeon Crawl Classics or any other system that requires you to make a spell check to know if the spell was cast successfully. The issue you seem to have is that magic just always works if you have spells slots.

If you want skills to do the same, what’s the point of even playing if you know you will always be successful?
 

Pedantic

Legend
That's specifically not what I'm doing though. What I want is a subsystem that actually gives abilities to the PCs so that you know better what it is your character is actually good at. These tiny numerical differences are much less interesting.


That thing with yes/no answers is exactly my point. Right now skills don't even do that. I mean I'll just construct a simple right here to demonstrate:

Consider a barbarian with an athletics skill. Consider the fundamental question: does this allow him to force open a locked gate? The answer isn't yes or no. The answer is maybe. Because the existence of the skill answers not the question whether or not you can, but whether or not you can attempt it. It takes bounded accuracy breaking shenanigans for a skill to actually answer your question accurately. At some point you might be so good that you don't even need to roll.

Now consider a wizard with dimension door in the same scenario. A fundamental question here is: can I teleport behind this locked gate? Now what does the spell do? It answers that exact yes or no question. It just says yes. No question about it. The GM can of course screw the player over by having an anti-magic field, but otherwise the spell works without question.

I want to get rid of the tiny modifier naughty word thinking around skills and add a more robust system that gives you some things that you can do, something that actually improves as you level. Less fiddly bits and pointless numbers. Less GM fiat. More real power.

It's less viable in the modern bounded accuracy age, but the easiest solution was just making Take 10/Take 20 easier and more player facing. Then you know you can hit specific skill DCs and whatever abilities are assigned to those DCs become consistently available.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I want to get rid of the tiny modifier naughty word thinking around skills and add a more robust system that gives you some things that you can do, something that actually improves as you level. Less fiddly bits and pointless numbers. Less GM fiat. More real power.
I understand conceptually what it is you are trying to accomplish with your system. And yes, for some tables it might be useful. Specifically tables where players do not know DMs and how they will act and react to player requests. So if a game had the add-ons you propose, it would be fine. But I just don't think it is necessary.

Reason being... the answers you are trying to get permanent answers for can just be gained using context clues-- both in-world / in-game, as well as out-of-game meta knowledge of the party, the table, and the sorts of narrative hurdles the DM puts in front of the players in an effort to make the story interesting.

Your barbarian scenario for instance-- can they bend the bars to get through a gate? Yes, we could have your system wherein it is stated on a chart in the book "at this character level, at this skill level, and with DCs between X and Y... success is automatic." That is doable. Some games might even have that for all I know.

Or we can have the current situation-- the one with 'DM fiat' that you apparently do not care for-- where the DM chooses a DC based upon the knowledge of the the thing being tried, the character, their level, their skills, how important to the story is getting stuck behind this gate? etc. And that DC might as well be automatic if they make the DC low enough. Or the DM might (using yes, DM fiat) decide that a check isn't necessary at all (again, based upon character level, skill level, and whether being unable to move past the gate is at all important to the story).

Players will learn through play experience when things become automatic successes. Because DMs will stop asking them for skill checks altogether when doing those things. At some point when your acrobatic character says they want to scale up the side of the building onto the roof and the DM knows you have a +12 to your check and Advantage on those types of checks... they just won't bother asking. You just can do it. And that to me is a learned skill for players AND DMs that I personally believe is more worthwhile then just checking a table in the book that says "You can do X automatically". It's learning the entire process of skill use and DC creation and both players and DMs learning how to be reasonable with making ideas and suggestions and hurdles and narration based upon the checks. To me, that's learning how to play the game of Dungeons & Dragons... not just knowing everything as a player you can and can't do by checking a chart. You wouldn't even need a DM to play the game if that was the case.

But... that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
 

MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
Try out Dungeon Crawl Classics or any other system that requires you to make a spell check to know if the spell was cast successfully. The issue you seem to have is that magic just always works if you have spells slots.

If you want skills to do the same, what’s the point of even playing if you know you will always be successful?
I can't switch to DCC because I'm not the game master.

I want two things.
1: I want skills to just do concrete things (this isn't actually necessary, but I used the example to reinforce my main point)
2: I want skills to be able to improve in more ways than just being slightly more likely to succeed

I mean just consider the intimidate skill:
  • How likely are you to succeed?
  • How many people can you intimidate at the same time?
  • How long does it take to intimidate a person?
  • What is the concrete effect of intimidating a person?
  • What is the attidude of an intimidated person once he gets over the effect of the intimidation?
  • Can you intimidate a person without other people noticing?

Or think about the disguise kit tool proficiency:
  • How likely is it for someone to see through the disguise
  • How long does it take to change disguise?
  • Do you even really need tools for this particular disguise?

Or lock picking tool proficiency:
  • How likely are you to succeed?
  • How long does an attempt take?
  • What happens when you fail?
  • Can you attempt it without having any tools at hand at all, even improvised tools?

I'm not just complaining that the book provides few answers to these questions. I'm saying that the system isn't even prepared to handle the fact that those parameters could actually change as you level up. There's no support in the system for it since the skills don't actually have any information about those things.

That's because the system is really one-dimensional. It focuses entirely on these tiny modifiers that don't really mean anything important.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
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.
Pathfinder has explored this. Pathfinder Unchained introduced skill unlocks, which lets you do new things with skills as you gain proficiency ranks. Pathfinder 2e goes a different direction with skill feats. Do they do what you propose? Well, that’s the problem.

If you treat them as unlocking new capabilities, then the implication is you cannot even attempt them without the appropriate capability. It’s like how there is no way to cast delayed blast fireball when all you know is the fireball spell. If you don’t have the appropriate no-tools ability, then you cannot pick locks without tools. The problem is that’s not how people want to use skills. You see this criticism levied at PF2.

The response typically is to point out that skill feats are allowing you to do something at a reduced cost. The activity takes less time, you can perform it at a reduced DC, or it might allow you to get more out of your roll. I think that’s a good approach for Pathfinder, but is that what you want? It doesn’t seem like it. I’m not sure this is really solvable in a D&D-like game without making major changes to how skills work and are used by the system.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The d20 System is kinda built like that on purpose: one singular roll to resolve a variety of complex tasks. It does that really, really well.

But that linear bonus of anywhere between +1 and +20 is going to dominate the skill check, every time. You have the same chances of rolling a 3 as you do a 19, and it's only that split-second that your dice is spinning in midair somewhere between your hand and the tabletop that matters. And that's either a feature or a bug, depending on your point of view.

If you want something a little less linear and swingy, I recommend rolling 3d6 instead of d20.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It's less viable in the modern bounded accuracy age, but the easiest solution was just making Take 10/Take 20 easier and more player facing. Then you know you can hit specific skill DCs and whatever abilities are assigned to those DCs become consistently available.
The problem with taking 10 is the DM sets the obstacle. Even if the DC is specified by the system (e.g., the DC is based on material), DMs can pick what they need (such as a harder material) to prevent take 10 from working.

That’s the nature of the progression treadmill. The PCs are higher level, so obviously they should be taking on harder challenges. Just like you shouldn’t be fighting lowbie goblins, you’re not supposed to be dealing with those easy gates anymore. They need to be made of adamantine instead of iron to provide the appropriate “challenge”.
 

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