D&D 5E Unified Weapon and Skill System

Jeff Carlsen

Here is a rough description of how skills could work:

Skill Ranks: Skills have three ranks: proficiency, expertise, and mastery. Each rank grants a +2 bonus on attacks and ability checks to which that skill applies.

Gaining Skills: Your class or background grants you proficiency in a certain number of skills. Usually, a class will grant you weapon skills, while a background will usually grant you three non-weapon skills.

Improving Skills: At every even level, you may choose to gain proficiency in any new skill or gain expertise in a skill with which you are proficient. Starting at 8th level, you may instead choose to gain mastery in a skill in which you are both an expert and which was granted to you by your class or background. Your class may give you additional options for skill improvement.

Weapon Skills: Weapon skills are based on weapon groups, and include Axes, Bows, Maces, Magic, Spears, Swords, Unarmed, and so on.

Why do it like this?

It's always bothered me that weapons and skills use different subsystems to represent training. This presents a unified mechanic for all forms of skill. The tiered ranks are simple, give context to the bonuses they provide, and provide substantive choices to players when gaining levels.

This system also addresses the current playtest's lackluster system of skill improvement. It allows expansion of your skillset while reinforcing backgrounds at higher levels.

Ultimately, I would like backgrounds to also provide a list of traits, allowing players to choose between taking a new trait or improving a skill.

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it's cool but it's not D&D. I often used to think it'd be nice, back when I played 2nd ed, to be able to use a longsword decently. But ya, the rules didn't support it. Anyway, we needed an insane amount of nwp just to survive. it was literally insane the amount of do or die that depended on both combat, AND social "combat", i.e. if you say the wrong thing at court you will be drawn and quartered. Problem was, the people running the show were all demonds.

Whoops, sucks to be LG group of paladins and noble wizards in that world! Best campaign ever though.

Ahhh D&D, how I need to find me another group to play in soon!


First Post
I'd go for it.

I'd make all the skills tiered. The first rank would be general and would apply to a broad category of things (melee weapons, knowledge, or influence), the second more specific (swords, arcana, or diplomacy) and the third highly specialized (longswords, wizardry, bartering).

GreyICE said:
Problem weapon skills are better than all other skills.
Your statement implies that all skills should be equal, which is ludicrous in any iteration of D&D's skill system/NWPs or any other rpg's treatment of the subject. Clearly, some skills will be better than others, regardless of whether weapon skill is included or not. Clearly, this is heavily campaign dependent.

That being said, weapon skills are redundant. Most combat oriented characters will not need many. Thus, other skills will still be selected if characters are given access to reasonable numbers of skill points. Even if you made dodging and saving throws skills as well, the same would be true (and the tiered approach helps considerably).


First Post
Have you taken a look at Myth and Magic? It doesn't unify wp vs. nwp skills, but it certainly provides a framework for doing that includes the notion of progressing in skills/abilities. Essentially you have wp and nwp slots that can be spent in multiple ways- you can spend wp slots to learn single weapons or weapon groups, fighting styles, maneuvers, etc. Non-weapon proficiencies can either be used to buy skills or upgrade them- skills start at Basic (+2) and advance up to (I think) +5.

Slightly reminiscent of Rules Cyclopedia weapon expertise rules. They also use the paradigm that 5e uses that you can attempt essentially anything with an attribute check, but invoking a proficiency gives you a better chance at success.

Jeff Carlsen

Problem weapon skills are better than all other skills.

That's debatable, but in this, your class still gives you some weapons skills, and you don't need all of them. But, if that is a concern, adjustments can be made. It's the base concept is what I'm after.

If you're going to do this, why not go all out and make spell casting skill based? And if you do that, why not play GURPS?

How spellcasting works is fundamental to the flavor of any particular fantasy setting. D&D magic isn't skill based. This system doesn't change the fact that D&D is class based. It just unifies the representation of bonuses from training.

it's cool but it's not D&D.

I don't think that's true. In second edition, non-weapon proficiencies were conceptually based on weapon proficiencies. In third, skill bonuses and attacks were calculated in the same way, except in one you had Base Attack Bonus and the other you had Skill Ranks. In 4e, individual weapons had a proficiency bonus and skills had a training bonus. They've always been similar, yet strangely divergent. It's not a stretch in the least to make them the same.


I've done something like that before in a d20 modern game. I thought weapon skills (and combat skills in general) would be wildly more popular with my players than other skills, but was pleasantly surprised to find it less so than I'd anticipated. Part of that was probably the fact that the modern setting meant "kill it to death" wasn't a universal problem solver.

I had it so that one "skill point" gave you a +3 bonus, with diminishing returns thereafter. 2 points gave you +5 total (+3 for first point, +2 for second) and 3 skill points gave you +6 total. In rare cases you could spend additional skill points for +1 more, though these are world-class talents and therefore quite rare (I usually let each character get 1 skill up past +6 by high levels).

Every character had at least +5 to some combat skill, but that left plenty of points to spend in other places and every character chose to spend some skill points that could have been used to improve combat points on noncombat stuff. So I considered it a success.

I doubt they'll do it for DDN, but I'd certainly give it a fair shake if it showed up in the playtest.

Li Shenron

I don't think such unification is really needed, but it would probably work.

However I would make the bonus increase more gradually, i.e. +1 per level instead of +2 every two levels. Larger steps are not much of a problem for non-weapon skills, but could be too much if applied to attacks.

Therefore, I would see this proposal work naturally better in 3ed, where skill ranks already advance at such +1/level rate with no cap, rather than in a bounded-accuracy system (implying only a few "ranks" with slightly larger steps) as 5e.

In 3e it could just mean to differentiate BAB for different weapon groups, and let PC buy it spending skill points (but clearly some more modifications would be needed concerning max ranks and class vs cross-class weapon skills).

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