Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Get Better At Skills With These Feats

The latest Unearthed Arcana from Jeremy Crawford and again featuring guest writer Robert J. Schwalb introduces a number of feats which make you better at skills. Each increases the skill's primary ability score, doubles your proficiency bonus, and gives you a little bonus ability. "This week we introduce new feats to playtest. Each of these feats makes you better at one of the game’s eighteen skills. We invite you to read them, give them a try in play, and let us know what you think in the survey we release in the next installment of Unearthed Arcana."

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Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
I'm struggling to understand the DM mindset that would be so arbitrary and capricious as to design an unwinnable encounter (for story reasons!) but refuse to arbitrarily or capriciously assign creatures in said encounter immunity to perfectly mundane character abilities that would make the encounter winnable. The sort of person who would "let the dice fall where they may" would never design such an encounter in the first place, and if they would they'd do so with a full understanding that they might have to kiss their BBEG good-bye. Because that's kind of how "recurring" villains work in RPGs; you don't put them in PCs' path without the expectation that they will find some to kill them.

So sorry, but I don't really buy this as a legitimate concern.

The real problem here is the fact that people tend to throw away the concept of "rulings over rules" as soon as actual rules exist. @Tony_Vargas has called 5e at various times the "DM Empowerment Edition" which either is or is close to the truest thing anybody has ever about 5e. There are arguments to be had about whether that's a bug or a feature but whether it exists or not is not in question. I happen to think of it as a feature myself.

The thing about "rulings over rules" is that people only tend to bring it up when 5e doesn't tell you how to do something. But it's not "rulings over the lack of rules"; it's "rulings over rules". The DM is [empowered to be] responsible for supporting and maintaining the internal consistency of their world. There is literally nothing stopping a DM from assigning disadvantage to Smuggy McTerrorpants's Menacing role and Dark Evilplans advantage on the opposing role, regardless of the printed stats. Or say that no roll is necessary, because it's not going to work.

srd said:
The GM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results.

Emphasis added. The implication is quite clear; when the outcome is certain (that is, the puny low level bard is ever going to actually terrify the mighty, nigh-immortal warlord), the dice do not determine the results; the DM does.

Rulings over rules.

This might seem arbitrary in a white room where a feat seems to give a PC an ability, but in actual play it's the only ruling that makes sense given the internal consistency of a world, which is something I think everyone here would agree on, and absolutely nobody with any sense in their head would fault you for the ruling.

This whole argument reminds me of another nonsensical anecdote from 4e days. See, in 4e days the rules explicitly stated that the only way to end ongoing fire damage (say, from being lit on fire) was to make a successful save. What happens when a character taking ongoing fire damage (from being lit on fire) decides to jump in a lake? Do you follow the RAW, absolutely? I suppose the answer depends on another question: what sort of game are you playing?
 
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Oofta

Legend
I would say that they do not believe the Balor can be intimidated by mere mortals. Especially mortals that he has absolutely no reason to fear.

Now ... add in some creative use of illusion, some RP, maybe a thaumaturgy spell along with some deception checks? Maybe they can convince the Balor that Darth Bader (or whoever is in charge of the place) is pissed at his subordinate that is daring to his lord why he's personally escorting prisoners. It's called having a fun creative solution to the problem.

So even if the Bard tries anyways, with just his words and actions alone with no magical effects, no matter what he said or what he rolled, he would fail?
Did you even read what I wrote?

That isn't quite what you are saying, but it is pretty close. Intimidation only works if the situation seems reasonable and they've set up an elaborate ruse, like lying to him... which is deception.

In fact, passing yourself off as something else is the sole domain of deception so that wouldn't be an intimidation check at all. I agree with wanting players to try more, but "I'm scary cause I'm your boss" or "I'm scary because I'm a Divine Being" is vastly different than "I'M SCARY" which is the point of Intimidation.

I simply disagree. 100%. A mouse is not going to frighten a hawk. It may startle it, the hawk may decide the meal is not worth it, but it is not going to frighten the hawk.

There are certain circumstances where intimidation won't work. It's a DM's call.





King of the barbarians? Pah. Human champion of the Lord of Darkness? My bitch. Lord Palpatine? His heart is palpitating.
...
I tend to just stop letting non-magical fear work, if the situation doesn't fit.
So we start an arms race? I just start adding new features to NPCs that I didn't need before? Our group hated that about the 4E AL campaign (especially the epics). I don't want to go there again.

your alternative solutions seem to just be cutting intimidation out of the game unless the players are stronger than the individual they are intimidating. Which I feel goes too far the other way.

I think all skills (in particular social ones) need to be adjudicated on a case by case basis based on the story and circumstances. Hard coded powers like these take a lot of fun out of the game. Taking an action to intimidate may work like the feat says. It may be better and cause multiple creatures to flee. It may have unintended consequences or none at all.


Personally, I think Intimidating one thing instead of attacking is relatively weak, though it being limitless is a problem.
I don't see how being able to automatically nerf virtually every melee based humanoid (that you haven't made immune to fear) in existence at a certain level is "weak" by any stretch of the imagination.

Though invisi-Rogue with Stealthy seems new, depending on the situation, the architecture, and how clever the player is.
Except that the feat as written does not require any cleverness on the part of the player. It's automatic and does not take into consideration any circumstance. The rogue can sneak across the 10 ft hallway without being spotted. Period. Brightly lit hallway with 2 guards staring right at you? No problem. Ceilings 10 foot high with nothing to hide behind? No problem.

If the rogue is clever or circumstances allow I'm pretty lenient on stealth. But they aren't invisible.
 

Corwin

Explorer
Seems like some of the fears being presented here result from a playstyle wherein the player declares he is going to make a skill check, rolls a die, and asks the DM to narrate the result. I believe this method was fairly common practice in previous editions, and some still do it in 5e. But I would remind those doing so that 5e's default assumptions of play do not account for such player-driven proactivity. The player should not be rolling a die until the DM determines if a check is warranted.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
There are certain circumstances where intimidation won't work. It's a DM's call.

Correct. Problem solved!

Seems like some of the fears being presented here result from a playstyle wherein the player declares he is going to make a skill check, rolls a die, and asks the DM to narrate the result. I believe this method was fairly common practice in previous editions, and some still do it in 5e. But I would remind those doing so that 5e's default assumptions of play do not account for such player-driven proactivity. The player should not be rolling a die until the DM determines if a check is warranted.

To be fair, the feats could be read to suggest they are granting an additional ability (or power, in 4e parlance) rather than providing an additional way to utilize skill proficiency in an ability check. I would argue that an ability check is an ability check, regardless of what action triggers it, but the language could be a little more clear here.
 

Corwin

Explorer
To be fair, the feats could be read to suggest they are granting an additional ability (or power, in 4e parlance) rather than providing an additional way to utilize skill proficiency in an ability check. I would argue that an ability check is an ability check, regardless of what action triggers it, but the language could be a little more clear here.
It's a feat that enhances a skill. It still uses the skill. I see nowhere in these feats, nor in the 5e rules, that dictates they change the fundamental assumptions of play. Trying to drag 4e parlance and design philosophies into this edition seems like folly. But your point just strengthens my argument. Seems like some people are not looking at these feats as parts of 5e, but rather seeing them through their previous-edition-colored glasses.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
It's a feat that enhances a skill. It still uses the skill. I see nowhere in these feats, nor in the 5e rules, that dictates they change the fundamental assumptions of play. Trying to drag 4e parlance and design philosophies into this edition seems like folly. But your point just strengthens my argument. Seems like some people are not looking at these feats as parts of 5e, but rather seeing them through their previous-edition-colored glasses.

Oh, I agree entirely. I just think the existence of complaints such as these demonstrate that the language they use with regards to these feats could be a little more clear in order to prevent the confusion leading to these tortured conversations in the first place.
 

Oofta

Legend
There are certain circumstances where intimidation won't work. It's a DM's call.


Correct. Problem solved!

All I can say is that I can see some people getting upset if they invested in a feat and it doesn't work as written.

I get it. A feat is a big investment. I just want flexibility of how to adjudicate the action and the intent. Some people will be OK with the target having a different response than what is written, others will get pissed.

Some of these feats feel like 4E powers. I found that while 4E had good points, most people I played with (that had played other versions as well) felt that by having hard coded things like this that it sucked the spontaneity out of the game.

It's a subtle thing, and not something I expected when I started playing 4E. I just don't want to go down the same road with 5E.
 

Corwin

Explorer
Oh, I agree entirely. I just think the existence of complaints such as these demonstrate that the language they use with regards to these feats could be a little more clear in order to prevent the confusion leading to these tortured conversations in the first place.
Were you of the assumption that any amount of language, worded in any way, could mitigate tortured conversations in this place?

You, sir, deserve an XP in the form of a laugh for that one!
 

Oofta

Legend
It's a feat that enhances a skill. It still uses the skill. I see nowhere in these feats, nor in the 5e rules, that dictates they change the fundamental assumptions of play. Trying to drag 4e parlance and design philosophies into this edition seems like folly. But your point just strengthens my argument. Seems like some people are not looking at these feats as parts of 5e, but rather seeing them through their previous-edition-colored glasses.

There are uses of skills that can give the target a condition such as grappled or prone. But those feel different from "frightened" and "charmed".

You can house rule that the successful skill check has a different effect other than the condition all you want, but then you are ignoring the clear wording of the feat.

Would you say that someone that won an athletics check to knock someone prone suddenly can't do it because it doesn't make sense for the story? Or that instead of being knocked prone they get pushed back 5 feet? Or that it has no effect?
 

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