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D&D 5E Unified Weapon and Skill System

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.
 

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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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