D&D 5E Unified Weapon and Skill System

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
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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Gorgoroth

Banned
Banned
yeah

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!
 

Ahnehnois

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).
 

ComradeGnull

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

Adventurer
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.
 

slobster

Hero
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

Legend
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).
 

Chris_Nightwing

First Post
I thought about this at some length also. It would definitely work, but you have to be careful how you structure the skill system. I came up with the following:

  • Skills cover everything, including magic.
  • They are divided into several categories: Arms and Armour, Arcana, Divinity, Trickery and General.
  • A skill rank gives a +1 to use that skill, there is no bump for the first skill rank.
  • Having no skill ranks restricts your use of that skill. For instance, you cannot critical hit if you have no training with a particular weapon, you cannot cast any spells if you have no training in any arcana skills. General skills have no restrictions.
  • You cannot invest every skill point you receive in the same skill: your highest skill cannot be greater than the sum of your other skills in a given category (this can be adjusted to determine vertical vs. horizontal growth).
  • A background provides general skills and perhaps 1 non-general skill. Each level you take in a particular class defines how you may spend skill points for that level. A Fighter might get 1 general skill point and N-1 arms and armour skill points.
  • Feats would have skill rank requirements.
  • Multiclassing would be completely open, and a feat might exist that allows you to spend 1 skill point in a given area every level (ignoring your usual requirements) to allow both dabbling and more integrated concepts.
 

slobo777

First Post
I thought about this at some length also. It would definitely work, but you have to be careful how you structure the skill system. I came up with the following:

  • Skills cover everything, including magic.
  • They are divided into several categories: Arms and Armour, Arcana, Divinity, Trickery and General.
  • A skill rank gives a +1 to use that skill, there is no bump for the first skill rank.
  • Having no skill ranks restricts your use of that skill. For instance, you cannot critical hit if you have no training with a particular weapon, you cannot cast any spells if you have no training in any arcana skills. General skills have no restrictions.
  • You cannot invest every skill point you receive in the same skill: your highest skill cannot be greater than the sum of your other skills in a given category (this can be adjusted to determine vertical vs. horizontal growth).
  • A background provides general skills and perhaps 1 non-general skill. Each level you take in a particular class defines how you may spend skill points for that level. A Fighter might get 1 general skill point and N-1 arms and armour skill points.
  • Feats would have skill rank requirements.
  • Multiclassing would be completely open, and a feat might exist that allows you to spend 1 skill point in a given area every level (ignoring your usual requirements) to allow both dabbling and more integrated concepts.

Really this kind of rule set is closer to what I'd like to play. I have a strong preference for a foundation of unified mechanics that all characters in a game access to perform actions.

Unfortunately, this moves a long way away from any previous D&D. I'm not sure I would even ask for it in D&D Next, as there are other systems that already do this, and they don't "feel like" any version of D&D I have played.

It's also harder to get a system like this right, because there's more space for broken combinations to hide in (and optimisers to lurk in).
 

Chris_Nightwing

First Post
Really this kind of rule set is closer to what I'd like to play. I have a strong preference for a foundation of unified mechanics that all characters in a game access to perform actions.

Unfortunately, this moves a long way away from any previous D&D. I'm not sure I would even ask for it in D&D Next, as there are other systems that already do this, and they don't "feel like" any version of D&D I have played.

It's also harder to get a system like this right, because there's more space for broken combinations to hide in (and optimisers to lurk in).

It does move away from traditional D&D, yes, but I feel it continues the line from 1E through to 2E to 3E - each edition streamlined and formalised a few more rules. 3E never went far enough with spellcasting though, leaving it special and thus more powerful. 4E took a step back towards traditional D&D in a sense with strongly separated classes.

I'm not sure that there's a fantasy RPG that I've played that does things as neatly as this - if you could point me at some I'd love to delve into them. I think what I came up with is the d20 system in spirit, influenced by skills in Elder Scrolls, but maintaining a class system that provides unique features.
 

GreyICE

Banned
Banned
Fantasy systems that do that? Off the top of my head Exalted and any FATE system both do that.

Both have issues with balance, but FATE skirts them by being fully narrative (so any issues you have you can walk the narrative around) and Exalted skirts them by... okay, it doesn't, Perfect Defense, Perfect Defense, Perfect Defense, because taking 1 attack kills you.
 

D'karr

Adventurer
Fantasy systems that do that? Off the top of my head Exalted and any FATE system both do that.

DragonQuest from SPI did something very similar. There were "archetypes/classes" but everything was done with percentage dice skill checks.

It was a fun game, and we played the heck out of it for a long time. Combat was brutal. However, it didn't "feel" like D&D for many reasons including that one.
 

Chris_Nightwing

First Post
Exalted is a dice pool system right? I've not played it, but got the impression it was more freeform than the rigid mechanics of D&D. I don't know anything about FATE, but wikipedia suggests there isn't much dice rolling. I guess the rules could still be fairly rigid though. d20 was hugely successful; I think there's space for a d20 game that functions with a unified skill mechanic. Maybe I'll work on it, though I've no idea about licensing, past or future.
 

slobster

Hero
Exalted is a dice pool system right? I've not played it, but got the impression it was more freeform than the rigid mechanics of D&D. I don't know anything about FATE, but wikipedia suggests there isn't much dice rolling. I guess the rules could still be fairly rigid though. d20 was hugely successful; I think there's space for a d20 game that functions with a unified skill mechanic. Maybe I'll work on it, though I've no idea about licensing, past or future.

You can play FATE with tons of dice rolling, monster hunting, and combat. It's pretty fast paced and (at least the games I've played) pulpy so it handles battle well.

It is rules lite and assumes rather narrative-centric play, though you could choose to run it however you wish, of course.
 

ZombieRoboNinja

First Post
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?

This. The system you've outlined is weirdly biased against fighter-types, who now need to use all their skill points to learn how to swing an axe AND a sword, while wizards can alter reality in 83 different ways as a basic class feature.

If each weapon category is its own skill, then surely each spell school should be its own skill. And as the good Sir Brennen says, at that point you've pretty much got a classless RPG and you might as well go all the way with it.
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
This. The system you've outlined is weirdly biased against fighter-types, who now need to use all their skill points to learn how to swing an axe AND a sword, while wizards can alter reality in 83 different ways as a basic class feature.

If each weapon category is its own skill, then surely each spell school should be its own skill. And as the good Sir Brennen says, at that point you've pretty much got a classless RPG and you might as well go all the way with it.

Actually, the fighter would be granted a bunch of weapon skills in the same manner as he is given more weapon proficiencies and a higher attack bonus. It says as much in the Gaining Skills section.

Magic doesn't factor into it, because there's no d20 roll except on the few spells that require an attack. If needed, that could be broken up, but it probably isn't needed.

All this does is replace the generic attack bonus with a tiered proficiency bonus. It's broken up by weapon type because that actually removes a subsystem. No longer do you have to track proficiency and a base attack bonus (or half-level bonus). You just have a proficiency bonus.
 

GreyICE

Banned
Banned
The problem with heavy d20-based skill systems is that they just don't really work.

The difference +1 makes is 5%. That means you have a 5% better chance to make the target number.

The difference an extra die makes when you need 3 successes in Exalted is 0.4 successes per die.

Even if you do a 3 stage graduated system of 2/4/6 that means that the best person in the entire world with swords has a 30% better chance to hit than Quincy the farmboy.

If you switch into 3E style of '1-20 hurr durr' you get all the flaws of 3E's skill system (including its wholesale slaughter of many roleplaying opportunities).

D20 is just not a great system to use with a skill-heavy system.
 

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