D&D 5E tool proficiencies: what's the point?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
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.
 

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jrowland

First Post
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)
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
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

Legend
Supporter
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

First Post
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

Legend
Supporter
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

First Post
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

Hero
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

Legend
Supporter
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.)
 

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