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

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
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.

It's really not. There is this odd obsession with the math that came out of the character optimization practices and balance focus of the relatively recent past. For most games if the math is off here or there, like it was frequently in 1e, it doesn't really take much away from the game. Some things simply become slightly more or less challenging, but overall the math is not the game (nor are the rules the game). The tone of the game, the classes and races, the implied setting and defining factors that make this feel like D&D, the simplicity or complexity, those sorts of concepts are far more important for the game than the math.
 
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Warbringer

Explorer
I incorpated tools into my homebrew and basically certain "Skills" require a tool to complete, else the skill check is at a disadvantage*. Tool on its own is useless.

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* to be fair, in my game it gear, rather than proficiency, n=but thats just a function of terrible language use in 5e where it's really used a gear dependent skill
 

Sadrik

First Post
It's really not. There is this odd obsession with the math that came out of the character optimization practices and balance focus of the relatively recent past. For most games if the math is off here or there, like it was frequently in 1e, it doesn't really take much away from the game. Some things simply become slightly more or less challenging, but overall the math is not the game (nor are the rules the game). The tone of the game, the classes and races, the implied setting and defining factors that make this feel like D&D, the simplicity or complexity, those sorts of concepts are far more important for the game than the math.

I really dont agree with this assessment. I think getting the math right can lead to all kinds of problems. 4e monster HP, 1e and 2e saves (heck, 3e and 4e too), 3e opposed rolls, there were a lot of math issues where you kind of just looked the other way and accepted the badly constructed math and like you say it really does not take away that much. I beg to differ though in some areas, 4e monster HP, affected that game dramatically. It created the feel of that game.

I also think that the D&D feel is well established as far as race, class, implied setting, and tone. Those are the easy parts. If those are so important why did they ever move on from 0e? Math really does affect tone. Bells and whistles on character classes really do not. If all there time were spent on getting the math iron clad and then they tacked on what we already know and expect from a D&D game. I think the game would be in better shape right now.

Let me also say there have also been some really dramatic and positive things done in the math area too. Rooting it back to the 6 abilities was well done and 6 saves, well done. Skills and tools are integral to a functioning game. Advantage/disadvantage is not consistently or done with well thought out application of it. What about damaging an object, oops didn't think that far, or at least about all the ramifications... Lots of work still needed.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
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.)

I think this is more or less the way to go.

But we also need a good number of tools in the game, otherwise shortage in tools will mean a lot of overlapping and less choices, therefore I would be hesitant to removing tools that aren't necessary to make the check in the first place.

Instead, I'd rather make the tool enable additional benefits. The simplest example would be a tool that seriously speed up the task, but we can come up with more ideas.

- A climber kit could remove the Hazard, i.e. even when failing by more than 5, you simply never fall if you have a climber's kit and are proficient with it.

- Navigator's Tools may completely remove the speed penalty, i.e. you can move/travel at full speed while navigating with them (assuming the rules normally make you slower, which I don't know if they currently do...). OR, it could allow you to do another exploration task at the same time (but this is subject to using the optional Exploration rules, so it's not a good default).
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Instead, I'd rather make the tool enable additional benefits. The simplest example would be a tool that seriously speed up the task, but we can come up with more ideas.

I would agree with this as well.

Basically... when it comes to Tools that actually are worthwhile to have... there NEEDS to be some benefit to them other than just gaining your proficiency bonus on a check that uses it.

Some of those option ideas include:

- Granting Advantage on the check in place of the proficiency bonus (since the prof bonus comes from training in the applicable skill.)

- Creating a "Check Floor" where any rolls beneath a certain number (like 10) are treated as that number.

- Allowing the character to take an action they otherwise aren't allowed to to take in the game at all unless they have the tool proficiency and the tool in their possession to use.

- Speeding up tasks and/or removing established mechanical consequences from failed tasks.

And of course, if WotC doesn't change the prof bonus as the only granted result... the other final necessity would be that they don't grant any class or background BOTH a skill proficiency and a tool proficiency that give a PC the bonus to the exact same check. Because then they are duplicates and thus not a bonus at all.

I'm sure there are some others. But each Tool needs to grant at least one of these things, because otherwise they are more often than not useless. And I know that I'm going to go in and change all these Tool and Kits to grant some of these things so that they actually will gain a PC something worthwhile.
 

On Puget Sound

First Post
It's really not. There is this odd obsession with the math that came out of the character optimization practices and balance focus of the relatively recent past. For most games if the math is off here or there, like it was frequently in 1e, it doesn't really take much away from the game. Some things simply become slightly more or less challenging, but overall the math is not the game (nor are the rules the game). The tone of the game, the classes and races, the implied setting and defining factors that make this feel like D&D, the simplicity or complexity, those sorts of concepts are far more important for the game than the math.

I profoundly disagree. If the math doesn't work, nothing else matters. I can write all the other stuff myself; what I need to pay someone else to do is to make a sturdy structure to hang it on.
 

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
I profoundly disagree. If the math doesn't work, nothing else matters. I can write all the other stuff myself; what I need to pay someone else to do is to make a sturdy structure to hang it on.
But when you're making a game, the math is the last thing you have to worry about. They weren't focusing on the math in January because they still didn't know what the core classes or skills would look like back then. If they made a super-balanced system assuming Fighters had scaling bonus damage dice, and Rogues had a minimum threshold on all their skill checks, they would have to do all that math again when those elements proved unpopular.
 

MJS

First Post
I think rules for tools (lol) are a completely unnecessary complication. Its like someone's house rules tacked on. I wish TBTB would realize that a basic D&D is the only product that has a prayer in hell of being sold along with the other games and building the hobby.
That said, I look forward to an RPGA 5E playtest this Saturday.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I profoundly disagree. If the math doesn't work, nothing else matters. I can write all the other stuff myself; what I need to pay someone else to do is to make a sturdy structure to hang it on.

Try writing a complete RPG some time that others will want to play. The math is the easy part, and the indie game scene is littered with games where the math and balance is very tight, but very few are interested in buying the games because they're boring or cumbersome. It's not that the math "doesn't work" with 5e as it stands. It works fine. It's just that it has not achieved the level of balance you desire, so a couple things are off a bit here and there. But nothing breaks right now...the game is already functioning fine with the current level of math. They'll tweak it some more, but this idea that the math is everything...it just isn't. 1e D&D did smashingly well with arguably substantially worse math than what we have right now. But, it inspired people in ways that competing games at the time did not (and many of those competing games had tighter math as well).
 

pemerton

Legend
I think getting the math right can lead to all kinds of problems.

<snip>

Math really does affect tone.
If the math doesn't work, nothing else matters. I can write all the other stuff myself; what I need to pay someone else to do is to make a sturdy structure to hang it on.
I'm someone who also thinks the maths is crucially important as far as my personal preferences are concerned.

But I think that [MENTION=2525]Mistwell[/MENTION] is expressing a majority opinion as far as the market of D&D players is concerned. As far as saleability and popularity are concerned, I don't think that maths are that important. Apart from the reasons that Mistwell, gives, consider two other popular games: Vampire the Masquerade, which has very non-transpraent maths; and Pathfinder. What do Paizo offer with PF that WotC weren't able to make viable with 3E? Not especially tighter maths, as best I can tell. Paizo offers colour + compelling mechanical bibs and bobs, much of which are themselves contributions to colour as much as anything else.

Good colour - the "bells & whistles" - go a long way in promoting an RPG, I think.
 

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