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

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.
All those things you mentioned are what the DM considers when building the DC. Trying to intimidate the NPC without anyone noticing? Fine, the DC moves to the next step above. Trying to change your disguise in a hurry? Okay, the DC moves a step up. Attempting to pick a lock with no tools? Roll at disadvantage.

The truth is, there are way too many scenarios to cover a skill because a skill covers such a broad category of circumstances. There will be a million points of contention once you codify something like a skill.

And for the record, spells aren't really as codified as people believe. I mean, people can't even agree on whether a fireball can catch things on fire. Therefore, it's left up to the DM to decide. They do the same thing when deciding a DC: think about the materials in the area, think about the environment (rain, dampness, moisture, etc.), and consider the proximity of anything flammable. And for a narrative game to move forward, these decisions are done quickly. And most of the time the table agrees.
 

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Minigiant

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.
The lack of trust IMHO is due to the lac of guidance to DMs and players on stating, running, playing and communicating their preferences and the wide growth of D&D creating new preferences within D&D.

As the number and diversity of D&D fans grew, D&D (especially on the designer front) mostly went "I don't have that problem so this talk of it is noting we need to address."

The diverse use of skills is one the long list of issues caused by the "I'm good. Not my problem" and "I'm sure people will figure it out." mentality of the D&D community.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
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.
And your point is well-taken too. And I don't disagree that WotC and the DMG could make larger tables or go into more details about all of these things.

But here's why I personally tend to bump up against those needs...

1) It takes the onus off of the DM to actually learn how to do these things themselves because they can just default to checking rules and tables instead. Making them (to my mind) lazier DMs. Why learn to do something when you can just rely on the book and recite the book by rote? But at that point, why would a DM even be necessary at all? The players could just check the charts themselves, get their DCs, make their rolls, and move on.

and 2) No matter how detailed any DMG or series of charts are made... while it will certainly help some more players, inevitably there will always be other DMs who will complain that the DMG and the charts STILL don't go far enough even then. So we end up right back where we started-- bunches of players constantly complaining the game sucks because it doesn't give them what they specifically want.

I mean look at it this way-- the current Ability Checks section in the 5E14 PHB goes into some detail about how to run this subsystem. It didn't even have to be as detailed as it is-- it could have been written even shorter and with less rules and examples. But it was written as it was and for a goodly number of players? It's fine! It's just what they need! But of course it isn't good enough for many other players and they are constantly bemoaning the fact that the game isn't good because it only stopped where it did.

But what if WotC goes a bit further in 5E24? Gives a larger chapter in the PHB and the DMG, with more charts and more examples and so forth? That will certainly help some of those players who bemoaned 5E14 and they will be pleased. But do any of us think it will satisfy ALL of them? I certainly don't. So what will happen is those other players will KEEP bemoaning the newer rules, constantly saying the game sucks and WotC sucks etc. etc. etc. And from all of us here on EN World for example... it will be just as though nothing has changed. The only difference will be the posters who are constantly complaining.

And that's why I don't think WotC needs to even bother. Force ALL of us to learn how to do all these things ourselves. Make us all realize we don't have to be dependent on WotC and their books to play Dungeons & Dragons. We have learned how to play it and run it ourselves on our own.
 

Pedantic

Legend
Look into 13th Age. I think you'd like it.

Had a Rogue steal the "Authority" of an evil general over his army.
There's a trope I've run across in a lot of Chinese costume dramas that I hadn't seen before that pointedly allows for this. Authority, particularly military authority, is routinely invested in an object. The emperor might be the one who gives you the command medallion for the western army, but once you have it, presenting it does give you the ability to command those soldiers to storm the palace.

It's a bit cinematic and silly, but it is an interesting conceit for a game.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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?

Some players do.

I mean the 4e skill challenge system once you fixed the match works great.

It had the single die roll but had a success and failure system. This allowed 4e to toy with

  • Locking skills to single use
  • Locking skills as automatic failures
  • Using skills mulitple times increasing DCs
  • Rerolling skills
  • Swapping skills
  • Adding a second ability modifier
  • Rolling to aid future rolls
You hear about these ideas all the time of D&D podcasts, videos, and blogs.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The lack of trust IMHO is due to the lac of guidance to DMs and players on stating, running, playing and communicating their preferences and the wide growth of D&D creating new preferences within D&D.

As the number and diversity of D&D fans grew, D&D (especially on the designer front) mostly went "I don't have that problem so this talk of it is noting we need to address."

The diverse use of skills is one the long list of issues caused by the "I'm good. Not my problem" and "I'm sure people will figure it out." mentality of the D&D community.
I'm of the opinion (as I stated in the post above) that DMs having to "figure things out" is in fact a positive rather than a detriment. The DM learns to be reliant on their own judgement and intuition and not reliant on books telling them the answers to everything.

That being said... I also acknowledge the elephant in the room of that way of thinking, which is the likelihood of less players being interested in DMing because they don't feel comfortable doing it that way. That is indeed the biggest flaw in my opinions on the matter.

But I still think at the end of the day... teaching/forcing DMs to rely on themselves rather than the books is still the better way to go, even it if cuts down on the number of DMs out there. Others would disagree, and that's cool.
 

Pedantic

Legend
And your point is well-taken too. And I don't disagree that WotC and the DMG could make larger tables or go into more details about all of these things.

But here's why I personally tend to bump up against those needs...

1) It takes the onus off of the DM to actually learn how to do these things themselves because they can just default to checking rules and tables instead. Making them (to my mind) lazier DMs. Why learn to do something when you can just rely on the book and recite the book by rote? But at that point, why would a DM even be necessary at all? The players could just check the charts themselves, get their DCs, make their rolls, and move on.
But this kind of advice isn't what I'm talking about. Under the sort of system I'd proposed above, player capability will scale to render some challenges obsolete, or trivial as player capacity increases. I'm suggesting less "throw DC 15 challenges like X, Y and Z at level 7 characters" and more "heists are most appropriate between levels X-Y, spacial obstacles like pits or spiked walls are no longer appropriate obstacles after level Z" and so on.

Not to get into the many failings of challenge ratings for combat encounters over the years, but the conceit they represent, of telling you roughly how hard a fight with some monsters should be at at a given level range, is something we should be applying more broadly to "challenges" as a whole. I think we've largely overcorrected and started doing it at the level of the individual task, which lead to dull, degenerate play as obstacles scale in difficulty to match player capability and produce rolls with fairly consistent chances of success (or the 5e alternative, where obstacles don't scale much at all). We sort of do it at the level of the adventure "For level 3-5 characters" but we should be trying to move it toward a better generic model of encounter design.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Some players do.

I mean the 4e skill challenge system once you fixed the match works great.

It had the single die roll but had a success and failure system. This allowed 4e to toy with

  • Locking skills to single use
  • Locking skills as automatic failures
  • Using skills mulitple times increasing DCs
  • Rerolling skills
  • Swapping skills
  • Adding a second ability modifier
  • Rolling to aid future rolls
You hear about these ideas all the time of D&D podcasts, videos, and blogs.
True. But I also personally believe a lot of DMs eventually realized they could do all those things anyway even without having a formulaic "4 successes before 3 failures" system. So I was never enamored with the Skill Challenge system and still aren't.

Was it an interesting way to teach less experienced DMs about calling for checks and making decision on when to tell the players they were or weren't successful? Absolutely. So I'm not "anti Skill Challenge' and would have no issues if the 5E24 DMG were to spend some page count going over them.

But I also do believe it should be made clear that the DM could and can do everything that the Skill Challenge does on their own without requiring or being beholden to the "X successes before 3 failure" formula. Skill Challenges are just one of many different ways to learn.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm of the opinion (as I stated in the post above) that DMs having to "figure things out" is in fact a positive rather than a detriment. The DM learns to be reliant on their own judgement and intuition and not reliant on books telling them the answers to everything.

That being said... I also acknowledge the elephant in the room of that way of thinking, which is the likelihood of less players being interested in DMing because they don't feel comfortable doing it that way. That is indeed the biggest flaw in my opinions on the matter.

But I still think at the end of the day... teaching/forcing DMs to rely on themselves rather than the books is still the better way to go, even it if cuts down on the number of DMs out there. Others would disagree, and that's cool.

There is a difference between DMs having to "figure it out" and DMs not being giving complete DMing tools.

At some point it went from "I know what I'm doing. You don't have to tell me. I don't need this." to "I know what I'm doing. Don't print anything I wont use. Who cares about anyone else.".

5e more or less didn't give DMs seriously designed optional or variant rules for tables who did want more complex or gamey skill play in their DMG. And 10 years later, still doesn't and ceeded that to 3PPs and internet GM posters. Not like they wouldn't sell either. Good skills options might have boosted book sales by a lot.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
But this kind of advice isn't what I'm talking about. Under the sort of system I'd proposed above, player capability will scale to render some challenges obsolete, or trivial as player capacity increases. I'm suggesting less "throw DC 15 challenges like X, Y and Z at level 7 characters" and more "heists are most appropriate between levels X-Y, spacial obstacles like pits or spiked walls are no longer appropriate obstacles after level Z" and so on.

Not to get into the many failings of challenge ratings for combat encounters over the years, but the conceit they represent, of telling you roughly how hard a fight with some monsters should be at at a given level range, is something we should be applying more broadly to "challenges" as a whole. I think we've largely overcorrected and started doing it at the level of the individual task, which lead to dull, degenerate play as obstacles scale in difficulty to match player capability and produce rolls with fairly consistent chances of success (or the 5e alternative, where obstacles don't scale much at all). We sort of do it at the level of the adventure "For level 3-5 characters" but we should be trying to move it toward a better generic model of encounter design.
I can understand the desire and am not against it as a matter of course-- I just don't know if the game benefits necessarily from trying to finalize the ideas you propose, because too many players and DM want to play their games at all manner of level? So using your example, telling DMs that heists aren't appropriate until the PCs are X level seems to be blocking off adventure types for no real reason-- other than thinking that new players wouldn't be able to understand the concepts intrinsic to heists in D&D until they've played enough D&D to reach level X.

Fundamentally I grok what you are saying, and to a certain extent I get where and why you are going that way. And I'm not completely opposed to it. It seems like the same sort of way of thinking that tell us that "planar travel" is meant to be a Tier 3 or Tier 4 adventure type and not something that Tier 1 or 2 characters should undertake. And from a teaching model I completely understand why the game or any of us might say that... but I don't know if that's truly necessary to make a hard and fast rule in the books? Or if the books choose to do so FOR that teaching model, at the very least it should make clear that it isn't a hard and fast rule and that certain DMs and campaigns can sent the PCs to other planes starting at level 1. Just like certain types of obstacles and challenges that are overcome by the Ability Score / Skills system are perhaps more meaningful at certain levels / tiers... but no DM needs to be beholden to them.
 

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