D&D 5E Too many knowledge skills.


My personal opinion is the Knowledge "skills" should not exist for one simple reason-- they are all tied to a single Attribute (INT).

The way the game is supposed to work is that your six Attributes are your "skills". Those are what you roll with. You aren't making a Diplomacy check... you are making a CHA check to speak eloquently. You aren't Climbing, you are making a STR check to climb.

It's these six Attributes that give you the depth of your ability. If you want to be able to speak convincingly to everybody across the board... you want a high CHA. That gives you the "diplomacy" ability to everyone you come across. So why in the world would we want to create a skill list that doubles up on that depth? By having an actual Diplomacy skill... it basically duplicates what CHA is doing-- giving you across-the-board ability in one attribute check in every situation. But why would we do that? The Diplomacy skill basically replaces what your CHA should be doing.

Instead... I think your Backgrounds should be giving you a width of applicable knowledge and skill where you get a +3 bonus on ANY of your skill (Attribute) checks in a very few specific situations. To me... any "Skill" that a Background grants, should be a situation that is applicable enough to at least three of your Attribute checks in various forms. And any skill that can logically only apply to one or two of your Attribute checks should be removed from the game.

So for example... Diplomacy is bad as a skill, because it ONLY ever affects your CHA checks. Thus it is trying to REPLACE what your CHA is trying to do. Instead... High Society would be a fantastic skill. Because that could apply a +3 to your CHA checks for speaking diplomatically to kings and lords... it could apply a +3 to your INT checks to know the history of a barony's lords... it could apply to CON checks to stay awake through a boring string quartet performance... it could apply to DEX checks for a ballroom dance to try and impress a lady-in-waiting. Any situation of High Society could and should grant the PC the +3 to layer on top of his Attribute checks... BUT ONLY in the specific situation of dealing with nobles and lords. So we avoid the current situation where your Background is Knight... and yet somehow get a +3 bonus to your Diplomacy even when trying to talk to that fence in the back alley (who by rights should never WANT to talk to you, cause you're a freaking KNIGHT.)

As another example... Commerce is fantastic. A +3 to CHA for negotiation, a +3 to STR for stopping a runaway horse-drawn cart, a +3 to INT for appraising the worth of something, a +3 to WIS to finding your way through the backstreets of a city because you know how most cities get laid out. Or any other situation where the DM thinks your skill in Commerce might apply. It won't happen ALL the time... but it will be very applicable to a whole host of different checks when it does.

High Society
Low Society

etc. etc.
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Forbidden Lore is not a thing. "I know about the forbidden and only the forbidden". Nope.
You might be looking at this from an overly simulationist perspective.

"Forbidden Lore" means I'm playing the apprentice who read one too many of the tomes from the master's high shelf; or the fisherman who spent more nights than he can recall listening to the secrets of the depths spoken by the lap of the waves against the side of the boat; or even the city guard who one day entered an abandoned warehouse, only to find it was a secret temple to Demogorgon.

It's one of the better things in Next so far, I think!


Lemme elaborate my thoughts on this. You don't need knowledge skills for the stuff your character is supposed to know based on his background. The herald knows the hairstyles and flags of his area, and personally I'd just let the player narrate/world-build as he sees fit when it comes to that stuff.

With more esoteric lore which requires specialized knowledge, I'd turn the knowledge skill bonus (no ability modifier, see below) into a resource. The player can use those to ask questions OR tell how things are based on what his character has read. If it's a good idea, I'd take it and run with it. You wouldn't have to spend points on trivial things like knowing what beers dwarfs likes.

Having even one point in Knowledge would thus mean you are somewhat learned in the subject (as it is in Gumshoe) and would make even low Knowledge skills/pools very useful (and fun! IMHO).

Refreshing the Knowledge pools could work however you like: a long rest, a day spent in the library, a week spent living in the city for Streetwise, a chat with a bard in the tavern, one point per day, whatever.

Optional rules:

You can spend points to identify objects, spells, and effects.

Ability modifier could work as general knowledge which you can spend instead of specific knowledge point. This is a bit fiddly but would reward having high Intelligence.

Reading a book e.g. on dragons would give a couple of points in Knowledge (Dragons) which would be single-use only.

What do you think?

I think I wish they - those valiant devs - has the cojones to try something like this, but I suspect that the simulationist crowd would have a fit.

I've recently ran a Trail of Cthulhu scenario and the feedback I've gotten has been great, my players love the point spend system and how the skills work.

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