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

MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
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.
That depends entirely on how it's structured. For example if you know how long a particular check will take then an obvious upgrade to that skill is to make that time shorter. If you know the range, then make the range longer. As long as the system has more detail than zero, then it's always possible to improve them.

A bunch of my examples even ignore rolls entirely. Look at my example post with movement speeds in them. You could make a movement related skill that, as you advance it, you move faster, become a better swimmer, become a better climber.

Skill feats are kinda what I'm after, but I feel their implementation is a bit too complicated and niche.
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.
Yes kinda. The problem I see with skill feats is that they are still quite separate from the skill system. I think for me they feel a bit tacked on. The system is still based on checks and modifiers
 

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MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
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.
The swingyness is irrelevant to me. My issue is the contrast between skills and spells. As spells advance they become clearly superior, because skills can only expand in a single direction.

I feel this is at the core of the whole martial caster disparity. Spells have rules and skills don't. Either you limit spells more, or you expand the skill system.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Describe narratively what you want to do, make a die roll, gets the results. Then move on in the adventure.

Couldn't or Shouldn't the parts of the game where you use skill be part of the adventure?

That's the core struggle with D&D.
It wants to be a fighty game but also not just a fighty game but also doesn't want to write up a subsystem to make the non-fighty parts a game.

If the only part of the game that is a game is the fighting, don't be surprised that's the only part of the game 50%+ of the players care about.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'm of the opinion that pretty much most of these questions/concerns/wants/needs come down to players and DMs both wanting to play the game in a certain way... and just not trusting the other side to follow them or play that way too.

Why do so many DMs get angry about so many species with Darkvision? Because they want to run their games in such a way that having monsters hiding out in the darkness and then being able to surprise and attack the players from the darkness without the players noticing them is a story they want to tell. But if all the players play species with Darkvision... that's them telling the DM "We don't like that story, so we are deliberately choosing options that stop us from having to be handed that story."

In the better case scenario... the DM would just say "Okay!" and not care that all the PCs have Darkvision and stop worrying about trying to set up stories where monsters attack the characters from the darkness. But usually the DM just gets annoyed that that maneuver is now off the table and they decry WotC for making that removal possible.

Likewise... a player who wants an advanced skill system that can make a declaration in the fiction (via chart or table) that says they have a 100% success rate in bending/breaking bars is telling the DM that getting caught behind minor and arbitrary barriers like gates or portculli is not fun. Same thing for the wizard player who takes Misty Step as a spell. They both find coming up against these barriers and being unable to get past them to be annoying and stupid and they want abilities/skills/rules that allow them to just easily bypass them without even having to roll a die.

In the better case scenario... the DM would not fight against their player's wishes and instead just cut back or eliminate using these arbitrary hurdles and roadblocks in their stories altogether. The game doesn't HAVE to have iron gates or locked doors or things that block passages. You CAN remove them. It's no big deal. And the DM can just choose to play into that story fantasy of the character just bypassing or avoiding gates quickly and easily rather than constantly trying to block it. The PC Rogue character that has taken Proficiency, Expertise, and has Advantage on Thieves' Tools? They're telling the DM that they want to be able to get past most locked/barred doors and obstacles quickly and easily (either because it makes them feel cool to be able to do so, and/or because they find those obstacles to advancing the story to be irritating to constantly be stuck behind.) No DM worth their salt should fight against that. The DM can just as easily find other types of obstacles to throw up against the party instead.

PC wants a species that can fly? It tells us they don't care about story hurdles that involve being unable to access certain areas. So DMs should just stop using them as story fodder. PC takes Proficiency, Expertise, and Advantage in Perception? It tells us that they've probably been burned so many times by DMs constantly "taking them by surprise" (because it's fun for the DM?) that they don't want to be surprised ever again. PC ever and always has 'Comprehend Languages' and 'Tongues' prepared as spells? They probably are tired of the "can't understand the person they're speaking to" story trope and want to get around it if the DM constantly tries to use it.

Even without being told, a DM should be able to get a pretty good sense of what their players are looking for in the game and the story based on how those players have built their characters. And the DM can either following along with the players and not use those tired roadblocks the PC have deliberately been built to get around... or they can just play their own game and not give a rat's ass about their players and keep banging their (and the player's) heads against a wall throwing up more and more ridiculous uses of those tropes just because.

At some point both sides need to just come to an accord about what is truly meaningful and fun for everyone in the game of Dungeons & Dragons.
 

Pedantic

Legend
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”.
To some degree, this is an unavoidable responsibility of DMing. You have to decide if the fortification wall is made of wood or stone, and whether it's smooth or rough and all of that will produce a climb DC. Some of that comes down to professional responsibility to make those decisions based on some consistent set of criteria (internally consistent worldbuilding, scaling player capability, extrapolation from some standard, there's several approaches that can work here). Beyond that, I think this can and should be mitigated in a few ways.

Firstly, I think it's incorrect to evaluate obstacles in terms of their difficulty in the way you're proposing here, and judging from the bolded bit, I think you largely agree. Obstacles should not scale in magnitude, but in kind to match increased player capability as levels increase. With a broad enough RNG, it's reasonable to have several grade of "gate" but that does not mean the conceit of "a locked portcullis in a sturdy wall" should produce a DC that's uncertain at all levels of play. It's fine and appropriate that there is a point that task falls off the RNG, and Take 10/20 help here, by making that a transition through 3 states. Initially it can be achieved at maximum effort given uninterrupted time (Take 20), then it can be achieved when not under immediate stress or perhaps by a character with a specialist feature (Take 10), and finally it is not longer a challenge (DC<=1+Mod). Rolling becomes a risk you take when you have to, either because you're pushing the boundaries of what you can do, or because a situation is out of your control.

Secondly, many skill DCs should be attached to player facing abilities, not to obstacles in the world at large. If a player is provided the ability to "climb any sheer surface at half speed" by a DC X check, then the decision making is entirely out of the DM's hands. More abilities granted through the skill system should be declarative; that's exactly what spells do.

Once we stop conceiving as a DC 25 roll as "hard" and instead as "the requirement to use the 'open magical locks' power" the skill system moves away from a loop of the DM picking a difficulty and players tugging at the slots to see if they win the action they want. Designing a hard challenge means not picking numbers that players will achieve approximately 60% of the time, and instead in devising a situation that will require a novel use of their abilities (ideally iterated over time) to overcome.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Couldn't or Shouldn't the parts of the game where you use skill be part of the adventure?

That's the core struggle with D&D.
It wants to be a fighty game but also not just a fighty game but also doesn't want to write up a subsystem to make the non-fighty parts a game.

If the only part of the game that is a game is the fighting, don't be surprised that's the only part of the game 50%+ of the players care about.
The game does have a subsystem for non-fighty parts. The only difference is that subsystem (the Ability Check subsystem) involves just a single die roll, rather than an entire mini-game like Combat has.

Do players really want a "Ability Check" or "Skills" mini-game that would take 30 minutes to an hour to resolve just like combat does, with dozens of die rolls and trying to drop numbers from X down to 0 in order to have been successful? My opinion is that the answer is 'No'. After all... many RPGs have tried adding things to their games like "Social Combat" for instance... trying to change the Persuasion skill check into a whole socializing mini-game that plays like physical combat does... trying to reduce an NPC's will or emotional feelings to "break them down" and thus "win the argument". And invariably... those "social combat" systems never gain traction within their respective games because they don't tend to serve the game in the manner that most players want out of them.

The fact of the matter is... any player right could (and probably has) designed a much more elaborate Skill Use system out there on the internet. Any of us could probably find one right now (on DMs Guild, DriveThru, Reddit, or wherever.) But the fact that none of us probably know of one off the top of our heads is a pretty good indication that either they stink, or that just not enough players feel that this is an issue big enough to make those rules stand out and become ubiquitous. And if that's the case... why would WotC choose to add it onto the game themselves?
 

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.
How does athletics not improve with level. A tenth level barbarian meets a lock with a DC of 10. They can break it, without a roll. If it meets a gate with DC 20, not so much. So the wizard steps in and does it. Great, not resources have been used. (This also assumed the spell was memorized.) The difference is the barbarian can keep trying and not use any resources in doing so. The wizard might open the dimension door and get smacked and lose concentration. Now, even more resources will need to be used.

There is a pro/con game I think you are missing here. There are pros to having a separate system for skills. I feel like you are just dismissing those.

Therefore, if that is the path you want to go down, I suggest you try it. Start with two or three skills that are commonly used. Based on my table, I'd shoot for perception, athletics, and arcana. Craft them similar to spells and have it adjust every two or four levels. Write it up like a class or feat. And then try it with your players. I'd be curious to hear what they thought, and even more curious how you as a the DM liked it.
 
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Pedantic

Legend
Even without being told, a DM should be able to get a pretty good sense of what their players are looking for in the game and the story based on how those players have built their characters. And the DM can either following along with the players and not use those tired roadblocks the PC have deliberately been built to get around... or they can just play their own game and not give a rat's ass about their players and keep banging their (and the player's) heads against a wall throwing up more and more ridiculous uses of those tropes just because.

At some point both sides need to just come to an accord about what is truly meaningful and fun for everyone in the game of Dungeons & Dragons.
While this point is well taken, does this have to sit in the DM's hands? Surely a lot of this work could be offloaded to design, both in determining what kind of problems fit at what level ranges, and in encounter/adventure construction advice. You can envision a DMG that puts all this stuff together and lets you plan encounters and situations that will provide appropriate and interesting challenges for the abilities PCs can bring to bear.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I've mentioned this in another thread before. I think, at certain levels of play, a player should be able to choose abilities for skills so they should be able to tackle problems that, currently, only spells can do. This legendary rogue is so good at picking locks, he can open a portal to another dimension. (for example). The Fighter can jump 50 feet in the air or the bard balance on a twig.

That kind of thing.

How to do that, mechanically, to make it balanced and interesting? I don't know. I just feel there's a whole part of the game that's untapped.
Look into 13th Age. I think you'd like it.

Had a Rogue steal the "Authority" of an evil general over his army.
 

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