D&D 5E Thoughts on a skills PC.

ElterAgo

Explorer
I've got about a month before the current campaign wraps up and a new one starts. So I've got some ideas boiling around in my head.

Most of our players seem to be pretty focused on combat machines. Abilities, skills, and even spells are mostly just focused on what can be used in combat. We have handled most combat encounters just fine. However, non-combat hasn't gone so well. My warlock was a pretty good 'face' character (if I do say so myself), with a high deception and persuasion. Though even then, a bad roll means failure against most any Joe-Schmoe. We especially can't seem to make a skill check for investigate, arcana, history, religion, nature, insight, etc... So we got into some unnecessary fights and went into most fights completely blind.

I don't want to make another 'face' character, but I was thinking about seeing how good (and consistent) I could get for at least several of the other skills.
So I'm looking at things like the Skill Expert feat (can you take it more than once?), rogue Expertise at 1st and 6th level, bard Expertise at 3rd and 10th level, bard Jack of All Trades at 2nd level, Bardic Inspiration, bard Collège of Lore (3 more skill proficiencies). A lot of these are in bard. So this is sounding like 1 level of rogue and the rest bard.
Like I said, I don't want to make another 'face' character. So I might have to do some finagling to not be the face even with a good charisma.

Are there other feats or class abilities like this? Seems like wizard should have something for this, but I haven't seen it. Have you tried or seen someone else try this basic concept? How did they build it and how did it work out?
 

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ECMO3

Hero
Rogue-Bard is your best bet. As far as race, Half-Elf works particularly well because it has higher ability bonuses and 2 skill proficiencies. Skill expert and Custom or Human are options too or the best of both worlds half-Elf and skill expert at level 4.

I would take mostly Rogue levels. I would also take scout rogue and lore bard as subclasses

Start as Rogue, then take 4 levels in Lore Bard to get the expertise and Bonus skills but after that Rogue will give you two more expertise at 3rd level on a scout and two more after that at 6th level. So at 10th level with a Half Elf Scout Rogue 6-Lore Bard 4 with skill expert and prodigy you should be looking at 16 proficiencies, 10 with expertise and half-proficiency in the two skills you are not profficient in. If you can manage a 3-level Ranger Dip you can have proficiency in all the skills and expertise in 11 of them by 13th level.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Whatever you decide on (and best of luck with finding your best choice)... the thing to remember though is that none of those ideas are going to solve or remove the biggest issue when it comes to skills... the d20.

Having proficiency in lots of skill is great... but even then your best bonuses at Level 1 will be like a +8 (+4 with an 18 ability score, and +4 for Expertise's doubled proficiency.) But when you add that to a d20 roll... that 20-point swing is going still give you lots of times when your check is barely a 15, sometimes even less than 10. And quite often you will find times when your tricked out skill monkey character still gets beaten by other members of your party who have stacked up on combat instead because they just happen to roll a 19 and you rolled a 3. That kind of thing happens all the time, especially when there are four or five other players all rolling the same check you are. One of them has a good chance of beating you a lot of the time and that can take some of the fun out of being the supposed skillful one if you keep noticing you still get beaten on checks.

I'm not saying you shouldn't make this kind of character... if you think it will be fun you absolutely should! All I'm cautioning is that because of the swing of the d20... failures are still going to happen and quite possibly more often than you might otherwise think with a "skill-focused" character in the party. But at the very least, having that character will reduce the number of failures your party tends to suffer from (even if it can't eliminate it completely.) Hopefully those additional successes will be enough to make it feel like it was worthwhile!
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Are there other feats or class abilities like this? Seems like wizard should have something for this, but I haven't seen it. Have you tried or seen someone else try this basic concept? How did they build it and how did it work out?
I have a skill build which works very well IMO:

Half-Elf Rogue 3 (Scout) / Bard 3 (Lore)/ Cleric 1 (Knowledge)

Skills count 2: Half-Elf gives you two skills and Common, Elvish, and one extra language
Skills count 4: Background gives you two skills (and two tools and/or languages)
Skills count 8: Rogue gives you four skills and thieves' cant (language)
Skills count 10: Rogue (Scout) gives you Nature and Survival (expertise in both as well)
Skills count 11: Bard (multiclass) gives you an extra skill
Skills count 14: Bard (Lore) gives you 3 more skills
Skills count 16: Cleric (Knowledge) gives you two languages as well as two of: Arcana, History, and Religion (will also gain expertise in the two you choose).

Finally, take Prodigy and Skill expert to gain proficiency in the last two skills.

You end up with expertise in: 8 skills (including 2 from rogue and 2 from bard), up to 10 with Prodigy and Skill Expert.

Now, we do feats by character level, not class, but Rogue 4 and Bard 4 would get you both the feats you need.

If you go human and take Skilled as your variant feat, you can have all 18 skills by level 7.

Oh, and you can't take Skill Expert more than once. Which is why Human or Half-Elf work well to get Prodigy.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Whatever you decide on (and best of luck with finding your best choice)... the thing to remember though is that none of those ideas are going to solve or remove the biggest issue when it comes to skills... the d20.

Having proficiency in lots of skill is great... but even then your best bonuses at Level 1 will be like a +8 (+4 with an 18 ability score, and +4 for Expertise's doubled proficiency.) But when you add that to a d20 roll... that 20-point swing is going still give you lots of times when your check is barely a 15, sometimes even less than 10. And quite often you will find times when your tricked out skill monkey character still gets beaten by other members of your party who have stacked up on combat instead because they just happen to roll a 19 and you rolled a 3. That kind of thing happens all the time, especially when there are four or five other players all rolling the same check you are. One of them has a good chance of beating you a lot of the time and that can take some of the fun out of being the supposed skillful one if you keep noticing you still get beaten on checks.

I'm not saying you shouldn't make this kind of character... if you think it will be fun you absolutely should! All I'm cautioning is that because of the swing of the d20... failures are still going to happen and quite possibly more often than you might otherwise think with a "skill-focused" character in the party. But at the very least, having that character will reduce the number of failures your party tends to suffer from (even if it can't eliminate it completely.) Hopefully those additional successes will be enough to make it feel like it was worthwhile!
That is a great point. The lucky feat can help with this a good bit.
 

Best is going to depend on your tables style of game but most PCs have plenty of room for non damage stuff. What it actually sounds like is you want a PC who excels at gathering and understanding information. Ability (skills) can help here but honestly a fine comb through the spells and class abilities will get you further.

Take the knowledge domain cleric for example. Gets overlooked because it doesn't have much in the "mrw damage " department. In reality once you combine it with the usual information gathering stuff clerics get it can be a beast.
-More languages(if that's important for your table)
-Expertise
-expanded spell list full of stuff that equals just winning the info war with counters to the same effects
-Floating Prof in any tool or skill
-flat out mind reading with auto landing suggestion(for free??)
- more visions than a phone in psychic on the TV in a a Florida retirement community.

Take a 3 lv dip in eloquene bard and hammer down with your CD I anyone that knows stuff you need. Alternatively if you do want some combat stuff 3 lvs of fey wander gives you a big boost to all Cha checks, some more Prof in skills, and a mini damage boost on top of the usual ranger goodies at low lvs. Including more expertise.

That's all before you even get to race options and feats.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
For rogue, the Soulknife subclass has Psi-Bolstered Knack, which lets you use your Psionic die to add to a failed skill roll. You only spend the die if you succeed. Between not being able to use this on a roll that would naturally succeed and not expending it if it's still a failure, you literally can not waste the dice.

You have [PROF] *2 dice, starting d6 and increasing in size at 5th, 11th and 17th. You get them back per long rest, but you also have an ability to get one back as a bonus action that recharges on a short rest, so it's always at least one more than your starting amount.

With the die increase at 5th and rogues in general getting expertise again at 6th, personally I'd go up that route and mix in bard later.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
To build on @Stoutstien 's excellent idea about the knowledge cleric and what I was saying earlier:

Half-Elf Rogue (Soulknife) 6 / Cleric (Knowledge) 1. Has 10 (2 racial, 2 background, 4 rogue, 2 knowledge cleric) skills, of which 6 (4 expertise, 2 knowledge cleric) are expertise/double proficiency. You have your Psionic dice to add to failed skill rolls, and you have Guidance before you try something.

13+ WIS for cleric is better for you than CHR for bard since you don't want to play another face. Plus with your minimal casting you can focus on buffs and healing and not worry about spell attack/DC, while a low CHR bard is missing out on uses of bardic inspiration.

It's low dip, so you do get to focus on primarily your rogue abilities. Start with rogue but grab the level of cleric quickly.

Can use a shield which is an unusual but useful option for rogues. Can make two attacks either melee or thrown soulknife so more likely to be able to deliver your sneak attack. And with a single hand, so shield doesn't get int he way to TWF to do that.
 

I'm obsessed with utility concepts lol. I think 99% of the stuff I have laying around for when I get to get out from behind the screen is focused on anything and everything besides the minimum for damage. I'm a forever DM. I get to roll big numbers all the time lol. Adds another star spawn mangler into a planned eencounter...I wonder what would happen of a gibbering mouther pops out of them when they die...
 
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
More on the Knowledge Cleric: Expertise in any two knowedge skills is pretty solid, especially since it is not something that most people will want to invest in. In terms of spells, Guidance helps you make OTHER PEOPLE'S skill rolls better, and Bless fits thematically as well. A 1-level dip is a good idea, and can give you proficiency in Wisdom saves. (I'd be content with a 13 or 14 wisdom -- you don't need to invest heavily).

There's a case to be made for a second level, though: and that's the channel divinity option of getting a tool or skill proficiency as you need it. Having a relevant tool proficiency should give you advantage on relevant skill rolls, which will help with what you are working for here.

(That, with the Lucky feat, would be the way I would approach this kind of a build, rather than just overclocking the number of proficiencies you have).

As an alternative: Races. You may want to look at the new Trance feature in Monsters of the Multiverse (found on Eleadrin, Shadar-Kai, and Sea Elf, and so (we may expect) on all elves henceforth. It also lets you have tool proficiencies with each new rest. That's not quite as versatile as the Knowledge cleric, but if you know you're going on board a ship, pick up the relevant proficiency and all of a sudden you have your sea-legs.

Astral Knowledge for the Githkyanki gives you a tool and a skill, with each long rest.

If it's an innate proficiency you want, though, you could look to Lizardfolk alongside Half-Elf. It gives you a very different conception for the character, and you're less likely to be the party's face!
 

ElterAgo

Explorer
... quite often you will find times when your tricked out skill monkey character still gets beaten by other members of your party who have stacked up on combat instead because they just happen to roll a 19 and you rolled a 3. .... But at the very least, having that character will reduce the number of failures your party tends to suffer from (even if it can't eliminate it completely.) ...
That doesn't bother me in the slightest. If someone else gets a better total, that is perfectly fine. I just want to avoid this campaign's problem of feeling like no one can ever succeed at the check.
 
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ElterAgo

Explorer
Ok, thanks folks for all the ideas. I hadn't noticed the knowledge cleric. That definitely gets a look-see. I haven't even started looking at Monsters of the Multiverse, so thanks for those suggestions. Hmm... better make a list of 'things to check on' over the next couple of weeks.
1) Cleric of Knowledge
2) Trance race feature in MoM
3) Soulknife Rogue
4) Eloquene Bard (haven't heard of that one before) {Ok, he meant Eloquence. Would be great, but I don't want to be the face for this season.}
5) Lucky feat
6) Prodigy (human or half-elf only?)
7) Skill Expert (only once)
8) Githkyanki Astral Knowledge
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
Ok, thanks folks for all the ideas. I hadn't noticed the knowledge cleric. That definitely gets a look-see. I haven't even started looking at Monsters of the Multiverse, so thanks for those suggestions. Hmm... better make a list of 'things to check' over the next couple of weeks.
1) Cleric of Knowledge
2) Trance race feature in MoM
3) Soulknife Rogue
4) Eloquene Bard (haven't heard of that one before)
5) Lucky feat
6) Prodigy (human or half-elf only?)
7) Skill Expert (only once)
8) Githkyanki Astral Knowledge
Hope it all helps. I big part is just deciding how you want to be good at skills and if you want to cover as many as possible or just a fair number.

A lot also depends on how your DM handles ASI/feats when multiclassing. If you do it by class levels (4th, 8th, etc.) then level dipping will cost you feats.

Finally, how long will you play this character? If your games typically just run to 8th or 10th levels, you need to focus as much as possible on getting what you want quickly. If you think it might make it into tiers 3 and 4, you have more options.

Please return and let us know what you decide to go with--I, for one, am curious. :)
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
You lost me here. I'm not seeing where Ranger gets anything extra for skills at level 3.
I assume the reference is to Tasha's Ranger with Deft Explorer.

But all you need is a 1 level Dip. Ranger multiclass grants you one skill, and Canny (below) allows you another expertise.

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The Rogue's level 11 ability, Reliable Talent is what you want. Get that and aim for a +5 bonus without expertise or a +10 with expertise and you've got skills covered such that you won't just fail them all the time.

After that it's really whatever else you want to do. Multiclass a few levels to get access to pass without trace or lore bards cutting words. Etc.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
A lot also depends on how your DM handles ASI/feats when multiclassing. If you do it by class levels (4th, 8th, etc.) then level dipping will cost you feats.
RAW is that ASI's are class based so it costs you. I've never seen a DM not do it this way but it could be possible, albeit very rare.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
RAW is that ASI's are class based so it costs you. I've never seen a DM not do it this way but it could be possible, albeit very rare.
Yeah, that is why I said to ask the DM...

FWIW, we do it by character level, not class level... so, there is myself and one other DM in our group: now you know two DMs who do it by character level, not class level. ;)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah, that is why I said to ask the DM...

FWIW, we do it by character level, not class level... so, there is myself and one other DM in our group: now you know two DMs who do it by character level, not class level. ;)
I think you are overrating how common it is to do that.
 


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