• Resources are back! Use the menu in the main navbar. If you own a resource, please check it for formatting, icons, etc.

5E tool proficiencies: what's the point?

On Puget Sound

Villager
So my Guide background gives me Survival skill proficiency (prof bonus for Wis(Survival) rolls), and navigator's tools proficiency (prof bonus for Wis(Survival) rolls to avoid becoming lost). And we've been told that you can't add prof bonus twice, ever. So.... why? Almost every background has a similar skill/ tool pairing. It seems tools are only useful for people without skills, and skills mean you never need to use tools.
 

Atomo

Villager
Perhaps the idea is that Survival is not used to navigate. Is a foraging skill. Not sure, really.
 

gyor

Adventurer
Tools should be required for tasks which its makes sense.

If your blacksmithing, even if you have a related skill, you still need the hammer and anvil other wise you skill means nothing.

If you want to disguise yourself, you should still require a disguise kit, otherwise your left with perform or deception, but looking exactly like yourself. Congratualations, your a hit at parties for your impressions, but still useless at convincing someone that your really Prince Oozeck or the All powerful Wizard McSnooze.

So I'd make it clear that tools are required for any task that make sense to require them, but if you have a skill and tool that match you get both prof bonus and advantage. Only one of the two (and its a situtation that doesn't actual require the tool), you get only prof.

Does this make sense?
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
Currently some tools make no sense if they only add a proficiency bonus to certain tasks. I would rather have tools give a different bonus than a proficiency bonus to checks in general. Maybe following:

Climbers kit:

When you use this tool, you can climb walls that are slippery, have no natural footholds or are hanging over. You may add your proficiency bonus to Strength checks to climb. If you are prficient in athletics, you get advantage on the Strength(athletic) check.

Or, even easier: Proficiency bonuses from tools and skills stack. That seems to have been their intention (double the bonus was mentioned in one L&L article)
 

Frostmarrow

Villager
Currently some tools make no sense if they only add a proficiency bonus to certain tasks. I would rather have tools give a different bonus than a proficiency bonus to checks in general. Maybe following:

Climbers kit:

When you use this tool, you can climb walls that are slippery, have no natural footholds or are hanging over. You may add your proficiency bonus to Strength checks to climb. If you are prficient in athletics, you get advantage on the Strength(athletic) check.

Or, even easier: Proficiency bonuses from tools and skills stack. That seems to have been their intention (double the bonus was mentioned in one L&L article)
I like your first suggestion. It makes the tool a talking point which leads to a natural description of the wall.
The second suggestion is merely bonus to random.

I would suggest a tool gives you a retry opportunity if your skill attempt fails. I mean you bring out your climber's kit when you encounter a cliff to hard to simply climb.

This would plug the retry hole at the same time:
-Can I try again?
-Do you have a tool?
 
Last edited:

erf_beto

Villager
I think Skills are broader in scope, while Tools are used only in specific tasks (you can't forage food with a compass). Each describe the "how" you accomplish the task (like the difference between an architect and a construction worker).

Some tasks may require either tool OR skill to get the job done, but there are others which require both skill AND tool.

If you want to tell North from South, either the Survival skill or a plain compass (or google maps) would be enough, but navigating a ship across the seas might require a sextant and some other instruments on top of the apropriate Skill.

I'm not up to date with the latest skill rules, but I'd say having both tool and skill proficiency when you'd need only one would give you advantage, but having only one in tasks requiring both proficiencies gives you disadvantage.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
I've also questioned the use of Tools as they stand, and I know the way I'm going to handle it (assuming it doesn't get changed down the line) is that Skills grant the proficiency bonus and Tools give you Advantage.

Here's my thinking: If you are trained in a particular skill, you can make more difficult attempts. Adding your proficiency bonus means that you can reach higher DCs than another character could. If you have tools, you have a better chance at doing what you already know how to do (thus gaining Advantage.)

If you are trying to pretend to be someone else... you only have so much ability to look different, sound different, move different, and act different. Use a Disguise Kit, you have a better shot at at least getting part of that (how you look) taken care of. But you still can't attempt higher difficulty masquerades because you aren't good at all the other stuff that go into it. It's only if you are Trained in Bluff that you have the ability to reach those higher DCs because you have more control over your voice, how you move and so on.

Now I know some people wouldn't like this rule because they'll trot out the "If you grant Advantage for using Tools all the time, then you can never grant Advantage as a situational bonus in the middle of the adventure." But for my money... using a disguise kit or a climber's kit or other tool *is* a situational bonus. How often are you as a DM really going to grant Advantage otherwise? There are plenty of reasons why you'd assign Disadvantage during a STR (Athletics/Climb) check... rain, heavy winds, etc... but what situations are you going to find to assign Advantage that aren't using rope, harnesses, or belaying devices? Having a climber's kit available is the most obvious and likely situational bonus you're ever going to find.

To me... Skills and Tools need to both grant bonuses. And since I don't like the idea of stacking proficiency or stacking Advantage... having each one grant one of the bonuses is the best way I think to go.
 

Sadrik

Villager
This for me goes into why they should have spent their time in the playtest nailing down the math. Someone said that they needed to figure out the bells, whistles, and feel and they could later tack on the math. That seems wrong headed in my opinion. We already know the feel of the game we have 4+ versions of it. The math is integral to the play of the game and if it is not gotten right, it will make the feel of the game more than the bells and whistles. Exposing the math fix on the last playtest package was not the right course, at least for the playtesters. Perhaps they can fix the tool issue, perhaps not. There are many other issues though that have not been resolved in the math.
 

jrowland

Villager
So my Guide background gives me Survival skill proficiency (prof bonus for Wis(Survival) rolls), and navigator's tools proficiency (prof bonus for Wis(Survival) rolls to avoid becoming lost). And we've been told that you can't add prof bonus twice, ever. So.... why? Almost every background has a similar skill/ tool pairing. It seems tools are only useful for people without skills, and skills mean you never need to use tools.
If you have the Survival skill, you can use the proficiency bonus on a check to build a lean-to, for example. Navigator tools won't help. Your navigator tools will help your check (proficiency bonus) to determine what day two stars will line up just so at the Druidic Henge opening the gate the Feywild. Survival skill won't help.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
If you have the Survival skill, you can use the proficiency bonus on a check to build a lean-to, for example. Navigator tools won't help. Your navigator tools will help your check (proficiency bonus) to determine what day two stars will line up just so at the Druidic Henge opening the gate the Feywild. Survival skill won't help.
The only problem with this is that you are creating an additional situation where you think the tools should apply, even though it isn't stated within the rules of the item that they do.

Granted, this kind of DM adjudication is an important part of the game and I personally think giving the DM this authority to say that Navigation tools should be able to be used for astronomical purposes is a good thing... but when you have a specific rule called out for Navigator's Tools (in this case to avoid getting lost) you are implying that that is the lone use for them.

I think you're better off saying in the Tool description all the things they can be used for (IE star-related information and discovery) and let the DMs decide when to apply it to various checks (of which WIS (Survival) to avoid becoming lost is one of many of them). That way, there's less of a chance of person reading it (as we all have) of that a Skill and a Tool giving the same bonus to the same situation, thereby rendering one of the two completely meaningless.
 

jrowland

Villager
I think you're better off saying in the Tool description all the things they can be used for (IE star-related information and discovery) and let the DMs decide when to apply it to various checks (of which WIS (Survival) to avoid becoming lost is one of many of them). That way, there's less of a chance of person reading it (as we all have) of that a Skill and a Tool giving the same bonus to the same situation, thereby rendering one of the two completely meaningless.
I think so too. In fact, I am hopeful that a final document would be clearer than this playtest document. There is a bit of a Venn Diagram-esque quality here (ie there is overlap) but the final document needs to read such that the overlap seems like a wedge issue (DM adjudication) and the non overlap parts stand out and are more obvious.

It is similar to the *trained only* tag in 3E. Anyone can swim in 3E, but having Swim proficiency was better. Only people with Disable Device skill (ie trained only) could actually disable device. Tools are similar, in that you must have tools to do a thing, but since anyone can grab and use the tools, anyone can do it. Only those proficient in the tools get a bonus.

So, anyone can Navigate with Navigate tools, but only those proficient in the tools get the bonus. You cannot navigate without tools. I would (in my game) allow one to fabricate crude tools if they posses the knowledge (in this case survival skill, but even an "astrologer", Sailor, or similar background I would allow one to attempt to navigate with crude tools - maybe at disadvantage, a penalty, or 1/2 proficiency, or something)
 
Last edited:

DEFCON 1

Hero
So really the problem isn't with tool prof its skill vs. tool over lap.
Exactly. And even more specifically, having a single class or background be given both that affect the same check. Because at that point the tool isn't an actual benefit.

Now obviously, if you aren't granted the skill, having a tool proficiency (which covers a small segment of the skill) is greatly useful. So a class that doesn't gain STR (Athletics) as a skill prof would actually welcome the Climber's Kit tool prof (which covers a small segment of Athletics, just the climbing part). Likewise, a Disguise Kit tool proficiency for a class or background that doesn't already have skill proficiency in CHA (Deception) is wonderful. But not if you do have that skill prof too. Then the Disguise Kit grants you nothing.

Basically... you either need to give tool profs to classes/backgrounds for whom you don't want to give the full skill prof to... or the skill prof and tool prof have to grant two different bonuses so that they are both useful to the class/background that is granted both.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
I think so too. In fact, I am hopeful that a final document would be clearer than this playtest document. There is a bit of a Venn Diagram-esque quality here (ie there is overlap) but the final document needs to read such that the overlap seems like a wedge issue (DM adjudication) and the non overlap parts stand out and are more obvious.
Actually... another way the whole tool thing should possibly go is to eliminate the idea that you need to be granted "proficiency" to use tools in the first place. Rather... if you buy the tool (climber's kit, disguise kit, healer's kit or whatever) then the tool grants you a bonus to a specific check as if you had the relevant skill proficiency.

So classes/background that already have a skill proficiency in the applicable subject-- they don't need to use the tools. They're trained in the subject and the tools don't help. But for those people who aren't trained in the skill, buying the tool is like buying training (the difference being they have to carry the tools around with them everywhere if they want the bonus and possibly occasionally lose them.)
 

Kinak

Villager
As written, I'm fairly sure they don't stack... which I understand the reasoning behind, but will lead to some weirdly suboptimal characters like the guide.

Here's my thinking: If you are trained in a particular skill, you can make more difficult attempts. Adding your proficiency bonus means that you can reach higher DCs than another character could. If you have tools, you have a better chance at doing what you already know how to do (thus gaining Advantage.)
I think you're on a good track here, but I'd lean towards not granting advantage.

I personally like the idea of having tool use you a floor to your die roll. So if you're proficient with navigation tool and have a navigation tool, you can't roll below a 10.

Alternately, I can see tool proficiencies working more like armor proficiencies. If you're climbing a wall that needs a climbing kit, you either can't or have disadvantage.

But I also like the symmetry of their system, with proficiency granting the same bonus regardless of what it's in. Tools and skills overlapping like this definitely doesn't help their case, though.

Cheers!
Kinak
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
I personally like the idea of having tool use you a floor to your die roll. So if you're proficient with navigation tool and have a navigation tool, you can't roll below a 10.
Eh. It's really six on one hand / half-a-dozen on the other... but I generally prefer Advantage only because the risk of failure still exists (which is not a guarantee if any 1-9s are considered 10s in your version.) In that case, it comes down to who likes/doesn't like the Advantage mechanic versus the "floor" mechanic.

Alternately, I can see tool proficiencies working more like armor proficiencies. If you're climbing a wall that needs a climbing kit, you either can't or have disadvantage.
Again, six on one hand / half-a-dozen on the other. You either force every PC to make all climbing checks with Disadvantage except for the select few that have proficiency in the Climber's Kit... or everyone can make climbing checks normally except for the select few that have proficiency in the Climber's Kit who get to make the check with Advantage.

And in this case... I can think of many more situations where (as DM) I'd want Disadvantage available to assign to climb checks in adverse conditions, than situations where I'd want Advantage available for really good conditions (because having a climber's kit is the most often, if not only, good condition you'll actually ever see.)

But I also like the symmetry of their system, with proficiency granting the same bonus regardless of what it's in. Tools and skills overlapping like this definitely doesn't help their case, though.
I agree with you here to a certain extent. But if this is the case... then the designers would basically need to make sure to not design any class or background that grants a Tool prof that covers the same check that they already get due to Skill prof. Because that Tool prof is no longer a benefit to the class/background. It's a waste.
 

Kinak

Villager
I agree with you here to a certain extent. But if this is the case... then the designers would basically need to make sure to not design any class or background that grants a Tool prof that covers the same check that they already get due to Skill prof. Because that Tool prof is no longer a benefit to the class/background. It's a waste.
Agreed. I think the thing is salvageable, but needs to be cleaned up (so overlap is very rare) or substantially clarified (so it's immediately apparent to players which choices are "traps").

Cheers!
Kinak
 

Derren

Adventurer
This for me goes into why they should have spent their time in the playtest nailing down the math.
This has more to do with WotC constant tries to simplify the game even more. Alternate rules which are only used by a subset of players naturally don't get that much development time.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
Here's one more idea on the subject.

ALL Tool proficiencies need to take their cue from Thieve's Tools. Thieve's Tools have the right idea in that they grant you an ability you otherwise aren't allowed to do in the game. You aren't allowed to pick locks or disarm traps unless you are proficient with Thieve's Tools and have a set of Thieve's Tools. So in this case, the bonus you are getting here is not the proficiency bonus to your check per se, it's getting to make the check in the first place.

But this isn't the case with a lot of the other Tools. You are allowed to make a STR (Athletics) check to climb even if you aren't proficient or don't have a Climber's Kit. You are allowed to make a WIS (Survival) check to avoid being lost even if you aren't proficient or don't own a Navigator's Tools. You are allowed to make a WIS (Medicine) check even if you aren't proficient or don't have a Healer's Kit.

So in this regard... any Tools that are designed for the game should be for abilities you grant a character that they otherwise aren't allowed to do without it. So no, you cannot pass yourself off as someone else while using CHA (Deception)... you only can *if* you have proficiency in the Disguise Kit tool and own the kit. You aren't allowed to use poison in the game *at all* unless you have proficiency and own a Poisoner's Kit. You aren't allowed to create Potions of Healing unless you are proficient and own a Herbalism Kit.

And then we eliminate the tools that don't fit into this-- the tools that are granting bonuses to checks you are already allowed to make even if you don't have the tool or are trained in the skill (the Climber's Kit, the Gaming Set, the Navigator's Tools, and the Musical Instrument for example.)
 

Advertisement

Top