3E/3.5 Thoughts on skill checks

Greenfield

Adventurer
While this is labeled as 3.5, I thing just about anyone can chime in on this.

Every skill in the game has an ability score it's tied to. That's standard through every edition since 3.0, and it works.

Sort of.

The fact is that sometimes it seems like it's hard tied to the wrong ability score, or that more than one might come into play.

For example: In D&D3.* there's a skill called Jump. Since it's Strength based, and gets bonuses from faster movements, that suggests that Elephants are champion long and high jumpers. The move faster than people do and have immense strength.

Yeah, that was a test designed to fail, but that was the point. To try and find a fail point.

Anyway I'm thinking about situations where there might be two ways to see something done. Can a mastermind Intimidate with a knowing smile and a cruel laugh? Oh heck yeah. The Intimidate skill is Charisma based, after all.

By those rules though, the seven-foot Barbarian who just ripped the cell door off as he entered won't intimidate anyone. Charisma was his dump stat.

In all of those cases a good DM will call for the check using something other than the standard ability as a base. (Okay, the mastermind can keep his, he earned it :) )

But for those of us playing characters that aren't elephants, it still seems like movement, timing and a good take-off should count for something.

So I'm suggesting the idea of a hybrid skill check: For the long jump perhaps take the hard average of Strength and Dex scores.

Climb is still Strength. Swim is currently Strength, but I could see Dex and possibly Con entering in there. Okay, Con would be accounted for in an Endurance check, but averaging the STR and DEX scores seems like a not-unreasonablle approach.

WHat other skills can you think of that might call for that kind of split-decision in play?
 
The idea of breaking skills free from stats was floated in the Next Playtest (if not earlier - 4e featured a number of feats & utilities that substituted different checks or stats for eachother; STR as intimidation was one of those Gleemax discussions that wouldn't die), it didn't make it into the 5e PH standard rules, but it is an option in the DMG, as has been noted.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The idea of breaking skills free from stats was floated in the Next Playtest (if not earlier - 4e featured a number of feats & utilities that substituted different checks or stats for eachother; STR as intimidation was one of those Gleemax discussions that wouldn't die), it didn't make it into the 5e PH standard rules, but it is an option in the DMG, as has been noted.
It’s interesting, the way checks are worded in 5e - e.g. “Dexterity (Stealth)” instead of just “Stealth” is kind of an artifact of this. It was conceived during the playtest to better facilitate the mixing and matching of skills with different abilities, yet it stuck around in the final version despite skills with different abilities not being in the PHB. Not that I’m complaining, mind - it makes the optional rule smoother and easier to implement. Just an interesting curiosity.
 
While this is labeled as 3.5, I thing just about anyone can chime in on this.

Every skill in the game has an ability score it's tied to. That's standard through every edition since 3.0, and it works.

Sort of.

The fact is that sometimes it seems like it's hard tied to the wrong ability score, or that more than one might come into play.

For example: In D&D3.* there's a skill called Jump. Since it's Strength based, and gets bonuses from faster movements, that suggests that Elephants are champion long and high jumpers. The move faster than people do and have immense strength.

Yeah, that was a test designed to fail, but that was the point. To try and find a fail point.

Anyway I'm thinking about situations where there might be two ways to see something done. Can a mastermind Intimidate with a knowing smile and a cruel laugh? Oh heck yeah. The Intimidate skill is Charisma based, after all.

By those rules though, the seven-foot Barbarian who just ripped the cell door off as he entered won't intimidate anyone. Charisma was his dump stat.

In all of those cases a good DM will call for the check using something other than the standard ability as a base. (Okay, the mastermind can keep his, he earned it :) )

But for those of us playing characters that aren't elephants, it still seems like movement, timing and a good take-off should count for something.

So I'm suggesting the idea of a hybrid skill check: For the long jump perhaps take the hard average of Strength and Dex scores.

Climb is still Strength. Swim is currently Strength, but I could see Dex and possibly Con entering in there. Okay, Con would be accounted for in an Endurance check, but averaging the STR and DEX scores seems like a not-unreasonablle approach.

WHat other skills can you think of that might call for that kind of split-decision in play?
You bring up some good points. One other possible way to address this is to use "Favorable and Unfavorable Conditions" from page 64 of the 3.5e PHB. So for your Barbarian example, either give him +2 or make the DC -2 when he does his Intimidate check.
 
By those rules though, the seven-foot Barbarian who just ripped the cell door off as he entered won't intimidate anyone. Charisma was his dump stat.
I always thought this was a problem with barbarian design. They get stronger by tapping in to the power of their feelings. Barbarians should totally be Charisma-based. Sadly, no one (or almost no one) agrees with me on this.
 
All mental/ personally based ablities are, and always have been, clunky.
The example of the barbarian ripping off the cell door is a good one. The challenge was whether or not the barbarian could succeed in that action and the player shouldn't rely on a secondary checky to see if the NPCs where intimidated or not. The individual personalities should dictate that.
Now if the barbarian wants to go further and rip the the door off IN an intimidating fashion that is a different check. Maybe they want to make it look like it's practically made of paper as far as they are considered so what I would do is allow them to make the Strength check without proficiency and then make the CHA (intimidation) challenge with proficiency. If they also have proficiency in intimation I would grant them advantage on the challenge as well. The challenge would be against the NPCs' morale 1D20 + Wis modifier.

Not exactly how the book says to do it but I like players to feel like they can do more than the sum of their stats.
 
If you can rip a door off it's hinges why do you need to roll intimidate?

You just ripped a door of it's hinges. If the person who your trying to scare is likely to be scared by that sort of thing than they're scared. Why roll the dice?

The barbarian rolls intimidate when he wants to convince someone he's more scary than he looks.
 
If the person who your trying to scare is likely to be scared by that sort of thing
a) Because you don't know if the person you are trying to intimidate is the kind of person who would be impressed by that sort of thing.

b) Because in the process of ripping the door of it's hinges you might drop it on your toe, making yourself look like an idiot and ruining the effect.
 
a) Because you don't know if the person you are trying to intimidate is the kind of person who would be impressed by that sort of thing.
Then give it some odds and make a random roll. I don't think using PCs skill roles to determine the personality of NPCs is a good use of the roll.

But, that's beside the point really. I don't see what rolling Strength is meant to contribute here. That the barbarian is a big strong hulking figure with a gigantic sword or axe is a visible fact in the game world. It can't fail to be a fact - so I don't see why you would roll it.

b) Because in the process of ripping the door of it's hinges you might drop it on your toe, making yourself look like an idiot and ruining the effect.
Well then make a Strength (Athletics) roll to open the door then, if the outcome is in doubt. And then take the outcome into consideration.

But it's then a fact in the game world. If for some reason an intimidation check is still needed, then give the Barbarian advantage for their incredible display of strength.

But to my mind something's going wrong if we're letting the barbarian roll Strength(Intimidate) just so he can be equally as intimidating as a halfling rogue. Skills, and in particular social skills need to be adjudicated around the facts and context of the game world and not in a void.
 

Raduin711

Explorer
I have never understood the impulse to dump charisma on barbarians.

You know that big, ugly bouncer at the door who gives you one look and your blood runs cold? That's not strength. That's charisma. You're intimidated by the way he holds himself, the way he looks at you, the way he lets you know with body language just what he thinks of you. It's not the same kind of charisma as the quippy noble or the talented bard, but it is still charisma.

Maybe dump Intelligence or Wisdom instead.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
I always thought this was a problem with barbarian design. They get stronger by tapping in to the power of their feelings. Barbarians should totally be Charisma-based. Sadly, no one (or almost no one) agrees with me on this.
I could get on-board with a CHA-based Barbarian. They have strong personalities and are often portrayed as leader-types in a lot of movies, peoole gravitate towards them for their Strength and Confidence. :)
 
I think the core issue is the difference between the Barb being intimidating and trying to intimidate someone.
If a group of commoners is being attacked by an ogre there's a good chance that those commoners are intimidated by the ogre on some level even if said ogre isn't trying to be.

The player ripping the cell door off the hinges can equally be as intimidating almost as a side effect. I think a lot of DM get in the habit of having their NPCs being static unless the players directly try to influence them versus having them react automatically
 

Helldritch

Adventurer
Stat dump...
As for the barbarian intimidate. Let's see how the skills work.
Some skills are meant to be used only by those who are trained (mainly knowledge and tool skills) and others are meant to be used almost by anyone (physical and social interaction skills).

Some people are untrained and natural at some actions/skills. This means that they have a high attribute in the related skills but no proficiency. Example: charisma at 18 and no skills. A young charismatic punk trying to show off.

Some people are trained but are not particularly good or gifted at some action/skills. Trained but stat is at around 10 to 13. Their skill/proficiency will eventually enable them to beat a natural untrained person at this skill. Example: An old bitter politician 10th level whatever class you want. Good proficiency but charisma at 12. He was not a star of politics but he managed to get to play his cards. He is equal and in some cases superior to a young untrained natural.

Some are untrained and clearly bad at a skill. Low charisma of 9 or lower and untrained. Example a young student, weighting 100 pounds with 20 pounds of lead in his shoes trying to impress the doorman of a bar...

And some are trained but are not gifted at all for the skill. Example: A guitar player trained in tool (guitar) but with a dexterity of 8. The music he makes is listenable but not memorable. He simply can do the job (especially at high level) but he's not likely to make a career out of it (but he may try, dreams are there for that...)

And finally we have the trained and truly gifted. A high stats (16+) and trained. This one is hard to beat and can do miracles. And the exceptional would have expertise...

In the case of our barbarian I would rule this way: The ripping of that door would give him the advantage on his check. He's trying to show his muscle yes, but he's not using his strength on the targets of his check. So he would roll with his charisma and skills. If he is untrained, bad luck. His chances are low. A lot of people have done extraordinary things but no one remember them. With training, the barbarian would probably succeed. The difficulty would depend on the type of enemy he has in front of him. Low strength enemy would be easier to impress (ie goblins) than high strength enemies (ogres).
 
I know this thread is about a month stale now, but I just happened to be perusing Masters of the Wild (admittedly 3.0, not 3.5) and I found a cool sidebar on page 18 called "Variant Intimidation Rules" which seems relevant to the Intimidating Barbarian discussion. In short, a Barb can get a +4 bonus on Intimidation checks when raging. Also, if making some sort of display of might, the DM can use STR modifier instead of CHR for the Intimidation check. So these two variant rules pretty much back up what some others have suggested earlier in this thread.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
This has been a suggestion in the DMG since 3.0. It’s a variant rule mentioned starting on page 91 of the 3.0 DMG, a sidebar on page 33 of the 3.5 DMG.
 

Teemu

Adventurer
I always thought this was a problem with barbarian design. They get stronger by tapping in to the power of their feelings. Barbarians should totally be Charisma-based. Sadly, no one (or almost no one) agrees with me on this.
The 4e barbarian does have Charisma or Constitution as secondary after Strength, so WotC recognized the archetype already back in 2009.
 
I loved the the Thaneborn barbarian in 4E.

Looking back on this thread now - a few thoughts

One thing that would be interesting - but would need a lot of thought - would be to drop the idea that abilty scores are equal across all classes in all instances.

For example, I've often thought that high Intelligence, which is really all that a Wizard needs, is bought cheaply when a warrior needs at least Strength and Constitution (and only gets by without Dex because the game twists itself into knots to make that possible.). And of course if a wizard wants to buy a Strength of 16 they probably shouldn't have to pay as much for it as the Fighter (it's worth little to them and is mostly flavour).

A reasonable high charisma is something which should probably just come with choosing to play a Barbarian, and just get better as they level up.
 
In any edition, there's nothing really wrong with the DM choosing a different ability & skill combination to represent a specific situation. One of the big changes made in 5E to intimidate was to remove the violence factor. Intimidation is the veiled threat, rather than the overt one. The wookie barbarian threatening to rip someone's arms off is going to intimidate anyone who thinks the wookie barbarian is likely to succeed (and doesn't want their arms ripped off), regardless of skill or charisma.

For a 3E example, I had a particularly cruel half-orc barbarian that the party kept around despite his obvious evil tendencies (long story). Whenever the party wanted information from a captive, I would start torturing them for several minutes before I asked a single question. An intimidation check was irrelevant, because I was obviously going to continue until I received the information I wanted. It came down to the endurance of the target to withhold information until they died. Once we got the information, I gave them a quick death.
 

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