Unsatisfied with the D&D 5e skill system

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Well, the good news is that climbing in D&D 5e is a factor of speed and ability checks are only necessary if there's something about the climb that makes it uncertain, such as a slippery vertical surface or few handholds.
Don't those things factor into the DC, not into whether or not a roll is necessary? We already decided this is a moderate climb, not a beginner one. We already decided the penalty for failure is something nasty, simply because you're climbing the side of a mountain. But now we need another, different evaluation of the climb difficulty to determine whether it's possible to fail or not... and if we decide it's not difficult, then it's fine for the worst climber in the world to attempt the moderate climb with fatal consequences, because he never actually needs to roll...
 
Right... and in this case, our max-level, max-strength, trained in climbing figher (edit - argh, barbarian succeeds automatically!) can feel confident that he can attempt a moderate climb and not risk death! Effectively reducing DCs by 5 feels better than where DCs are currently, because it brings results into the 'cannot possibly fail' region more often.
"Cannot possibly fail" is also known as DM Narrates Success, and it's not slaved to bonuses or DCs - in fact, it precedes the determination of the DC by the DM.

There's no need to tweak rules to get there more often, just narrate success more often. As DM, you are /Empowered/ to do so!
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Yeah, if you look at something as a GM and you think "there's no way he should muff this" then there's no rolling necessary. You only need to roll and adjudicate if there's a possibility of and consequence for failure.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Don't those things factor into the DC, not into whether or not a roll is necessary? We already decided this is a moderate climb, not a beginner one. We already decided the penalty for failure is something nasty, simply because you're climbing the side of a mountain. But now we need another, different evaluation of the climb difficulty to determine whether it's possible to fail or not... and if we decide it's not difficult, then it's fine for the worst climber in the world to attempt the moderate climb with fatal consequences, because he never actually needs to roll...
That's the basic adjudication process though. First the DM decides if a roll is necessary at all. Climbing is called out specifically as being just movement except in certain circumstances.

A DC can only be set once the task is established by the player in a reasonably specific way such that the DM can decide if there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. Climbing in particular just costs 2 feet of movement for every 1 foot of progress, no check necessary, unless there's something complicating things e.g. slippery vertical surface, few handholds, the need to avoid specific hazards, or trying to avoid being knocked off by something.

The DM has two basic options for narrating failure - no progress toward the objective or progress combined with a setback. Plus there are some other options in the DMG - success at a cost (fail by 1 or 2 is success with complication or hindrance), degrees of failure like something bad happening only if you fail by 5 or more, and critical failure (some extra bad result on a 1).
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
There's no need to tweak rules to get there more often, just narrate success more often. As DM, you are /Empowered/ to do so!
That's the basic adjudication process though. First the DM decides if a roll is necessary at all. Climbing is called out specifically as being just movement except in certain circumstances.
Since we're already talking about using the skill system, lets assume that there is some doubt about success here. After all, it's pretty trivial to describe obstacles and then describe characters overcoming them with ease. Doesn't sound much fun though...
A DC can only be set once the task is established by the player in a reasonably specific way such that the DM can decide if there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. Climbing in particular just costs 2 feet of movement for every 1 foot of progress, no check necessary, unless there's something complicating things e.g. slippery vertical surface, few handholds, the need to avoid specific hazards, or trying to avoid being knocked off by something.
First up, this is rubbish. It's not how any published adventure works, nor does it make a lot of sense: you don't assign a different DC to each character who wants to climb a wall based on how you, the DM, feel about their chances. And if you have to... that's a problem. At that point I may as well scrap the entire skill system because it's making my job more difficult, not easier.
The DM has two basic options for narrating failure - no progress toward the objective or progress combined with a setback. Plus there are some other options in the DMG - success at a cost (fail by 1 or 2 is success with complication or hindrance), degrees of failure like something bad happening only if you fail by 5 or more, and critical failure (some extra bad result on a 1).
I already addressed the concept of a world of adventure (or even mundanity) where performing a dangerous climb has zero chance of injury to those woefully incompetent in the field of rock climbing. It's a ridiculous concept. There's a reason why even experts don't go rock climbing alone with no safety gear.

I covered the degree of failure thing too - it's equivalent to lowering DCs across the board. It's better, but you still don't see a lot of difference between the worst of the worst and people-with-high-modifiers-but-no-class-abilities-that-guarantee-success (I'm happy excluding those who do have auto-success class abilities, because they're not really using the skill system any more).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
First up, this is rubbish. It's not how any published adventure works, nor does it make a lot of sense: you don't assign a different DC to each character who wants to climb a wall based on how you, the DM, feel about their chances.
Sure you do, if one character climbs the wall in a way that is meaningfully different than someone else, then the DC can vary. If the approach to climbing is largely the same, then it is reasonable to assign the same DC.

And if you have to... that's a problem. At that point I may as well scrap the entire skill system because it's making my job more difficult, not easier.
It's the role of the DM as described by the game to judge these matters.

I already addressed the concept of a world of adventure (or even mundanity) where performing a dangerous climb has zero chance of injury to those woefully incompetent in the field of rock climbing. It's a ridiculous concept. There's a reason why even experts don't go rock climbing alone with no safety gear.

I covered the degree of failure thing too - it's equivalent to lowering DCs across the board. It's better, but you still don't see a lot of difference between the worst of the worst and people-with-high-modifiers-but-no-class-abilities-that-guarantee-success (I'm happy excluding those who do have auto-success class abilities, because they're not really using the skill system any more).
It's a good thing the game isn't even a simulation of a world of sword and sorcery let alone the real world. What we have our mechanics to resolve uncertainty as to the outcome of a task in moments where the consequence for failure is meaningful. That requires some judgment on the part of the DM as to whether and when to call for ability checks and to select one of several failure options to narrate the result of the adventurers' actions (if they fail).
 
Since we're already talking about using the skill system, lets assume that there is some doubt about success here...
"Automatic success" is when there isn't, though, and that's determined before DCs are set. If the DM calls for a check, but sets a DC the character can't fail, the /DM has failed/ and DMs should avoid the appearance of fallibility as much as possible, it undermines the level of trust needed from the players.

First up, this is rubbish. It's not how any published adventure works
A published adventure is a tool to help the DM along, setting DCs for him is an exception to the usual mode of play, but the DM needn't abide by it, it's there to aid, not constrain.
nor does it make a lot of sense: you don't assign a different DC to each character who wants to climb a wall based on how you, the DM, feel about their chances. And if you have to... that's a problem. At that point I may as well scrap the entire skill system because it's making my job more difficult, not easier.
Why wouldn't you? A climb might be harder for character than another, irrespective of attribute or training for other reasons - hand-holds might be spaced for a human, but too far apart for a halfling, for instance - or conversely may bear the weight of a halfling easily, but not a human. Training can imply long familiarity, which might make a task trivial (no check), while without training it's still a challenge (roll vs DC).

I covered the degree of failure thing too - it's equivalent to lowering DCs across the board.
It's also just part of narrating failure, and doesn't need numbers attached. The DM can narrate a failure as falling further behind someone you're climbing after, or literally falling off the cliffs of insanity...
… a nice one will even make it clear which is at stake...
It's better, but you still don't see a lot of difference between the worst of the worst and people-with-high-modifiers-but-no-class-abilities-that-guarantee-success
That's BA, it's an intentional design feature. The DM can inject a greater difference by narrating success for the high-bonus characters more often, or narrating failure for the worst of the worst more often, or both. He can also narrate success/failure for them differently. When the incompetent fails, he fails hard and comically from his own ineptitude, when the expert fails, it's a fluke and he recovers quickly.

You're expecting too much from the "system" (there isn't really even a 'skill system' in the sense there was in 3.x or RQII or the like, there's the basic d20 mechanic, and proficiency), and not enough from the DM.
 
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Saeviomagy

Adventurer
"Automatic success" is when there isn't, though, and that's determined before DCs are set. If the DM calls for a check, but sets a DC the character can't fail, the /DM has failed/ and DMs should avoid the appearance of fallibility as much as possible, it undermines the level of trust needed from the players.
So now the skill system requires me to know every skill number on every player's sheet or I'll be labelled a failure?
Why wouldn't you? A climb might be harder for character than another, irrespective of attribute or training for other reasons - hand-holds might be spaced for a human, but too far apart for a halfling, for instance - or conversely may bear the weight of a halfling easily, but not a human. Training can imply long familiarity, which might make a task trivial (no check), while without training it's still a challenge (roll vs DC).
Then why are we even bothering with numbers? This is about dissatisfaction with the skill system, and this is pretty representative of a skill system that just doesn't work - you have to make up the numbers for each player on a case by case basis, and the only influence the actual system has is now I ALSO have to be wary that my arbitrary numbers don't fall into the automatic success or failure cases of each character.
It's also just part of narrating failure, and doesn't need numbers attached. The DM can narrate a failure as falling further behind someone you're climbing after, or literally falling off the cliffs of insanity...
… a nice one will even make it clear which is at stake...
Yes, I'm perfectly well aware of how a DM can decide the price of failure. Again - I can just do that. The skill system doesn't help me in the slightest.
That's BA, it's an intentional design feature. The DM can inject a greater difference by narrating success for the high-bonus characters more often, or narrating failure for the worst of the worst more often, or both. He can also narrate success/failure for them differently. When the incompetent fails, he fails hard and comically from his own ineptitude, when the expert fails, it's a fluke and he recovers quickly.
Design features can be wrong, so stating that doesn't make any ground for your argument. Whether or not someone intended the skill system to be a step worse than just making things up based on how you feel about a character doesn't change whether or not that was the result.
You're expecting too much from the "system" (there isn't really even a 'skill system' in the sense there was in 3.x or RQII or the like, there's the basic d20 mechanic, and proficiency), and not enough from the DM.
Because what's expected from the DM is "everything that you would have to do if there was literally no skill system at all, but now you also have to know character's stats to avoid getting the numbers wrong, and the players have probably read the skill system and formed expectations from it, so expect an entirely new set of arguments based on how bad those numbers are".

That's why people are dissatisfied. They're not doing the wrong thing - the skill system as presented in 5e is literally worse than nothing.
 
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So now the skill system requires me to know every skill number on every player's sheet or I'll be labelled a failure?
Well, you could have that info behind the screen. Or ask them when they declare an action. Besides, at a given level, there should be some 'safe' DCs.


Then why are we even bothering with numbers? This is about dissatisfaction with the skill system, and this is pretty representative of a skill system that just doesn't work - you have to make up the numbers for each player on a case by case basis, and the only influence the actual system has is now I ALSO have to be wary that my arbitrary numbers don't fall into the automatic success or failure cases of each character.
Your numbers shouldn't be arbitrary, of course, otherwise you wouldn't be considering each character when setting a DC. And, it's only if you don't settle on success or failure as being the better narrative result that you go to the trouble of check. As @Morrus; has pointed out, once players are used to it, they'll angle to get narrated success rather than checks, as much as possible.
So it really just gets easier.

Because what's expected from the DM is "everything
Yep. Empowerment.

No pay bump, either. Oh, no wait, what are you being paid now? Nothing? We'll DOUBLE it!



OK, sorry, that got too flippant, even for me.
Seriously, though, part of the solution is that what you're considering the skill system is not the whole skill system, the DM judging success/failure is also part of it, can be the larger part. So the actual numbers and proficiency write-ups can be, by far, the smallest part of resolving player actions, most of it can be just you & your players, having fun. As long as they trust your judgement.
 
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Fenris-77

Explorer
That is a lot of salt. Don't get me wrong, I like a little salt on my rhetoric, I feel like it really brings out the full range of flavours in a post. Not just the dissatisfaction, but the rage and angst too. When you add the long multi quote it smooths out the rough edges on the palate and really pulls the whole post together. When you add too much salt though, especially when mixed with store bought sarcasm, it can really bring the whole thing down.

I've played worse than nothing. 5E ain't it.

Tony beat me to the post. The above was not @Tony Vargas
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
So now the skill system requires me to know every skill number on every player's sheet or I'll be labelled a failure?

Then why are we even bothering with numbers? This is about dissatisfaction with the skill system, and this is pretty representative of a skill system that just doesn't work - you have to make up the numbers for each player on a case by case basis, and the only influence the actual system has is now I ALSO have to be wary that my arbitrary numbers don't fall into the automatic success or failure cases of each character.

Yes, I'm perfectly well aware of how a DM can decide the price of failure. Again - I can just do that. The skill system doesn't help me in the slightest.

Design features can be wrong, so stating that doesn't make any ground for your argument. Whether or not someone intended the skill system to be a step worse than just making things up based on how you feel about a character doesn't change whether or not that was the result.

Because what's expected from the DM is "everything that you would have to do if there was literally no skill system at all, but now you also have to know character's stats to avoid getting the numbers wrong, and the players have probably read the skill system and formed expectations from it, so expect an entirely new set of arguments based on how bad those numbers are".

That's why people are dissatisfied. They're not doing the wrong thing - the skill system as presented in 5e is literally worse than nothing.
"So now the skill system requires me to know every skill number on every player's sheet or I'll be labelled a failure?"

No. It also pretty explicitly contradicts the notion that setting a DC thst turns into auto-success is a failure either.

In the DMG they have rules on auto-success in the sections about ability checks- in play.

One of their options includes auto-success for DC 10 or less *for characters who are proficient* in non-disad situations. Obviously that sets up the "you set a dc" along with "it turns out to be no chsnce of failure" as a possible result - depending on the traits of the character doing the deed - not just the "approach".

Another one is to allow auto-success when the DC is (iirc) 5 lower than the raw ability score (?) - again resulting in DC being assigned but the character score making a roll unnecessary.

So, nah, the idea that setting a DC when a roll winds up not being necessary is somehow a sign within the system of a fsilure on the GM is not supported.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Setting a DC when a roll winds up being not necessary is a sign of bad GMing, not system weakness. This is really only an issue at lower levels with characters that have expertise, and maybe at higher levels generally but only for proficient characters facing easy tasks - you don't need to have each character memorized. Even then, setting DCs and rolling checks should only happen when there is some kind of consequence for failure anyway, regardless of the complexity of the task at hand.
 
When you add too much salt though, especially when mixed with store bought sarcasm, it can really bring the whole thing down.

I've played worse than nothing. 5E ain't it.

Tony beat me to the post. The above was not @Tony Vargas
Yeah, I use homemade sarcasm, grow m'own snark, too.

Setting a DC when a roll winds up being not necessary is a sign of bad GMing, not system weakness.
To be completely fair, it could well be both.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
My DMing has just been slandered!

I happily set a DC the character can't fail, and it works quite well for us.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
I will be starting a new game in a few months, and find that I am very dissatisfied with the D&D 5e skill system, and would like something more comprehensive, but not terribly more complex. I could just import the system from 3.0 into 5e, however I can well imagine that this is a topic that has been addressed here before, and thought that someone might be able to point me in the direction of some good ideas or information, at least I hope as much.
I did a bit of an experiment with one of our 5E games that had some pretty positive results, and I'll gladly share to see if it'd work for you.

Having been fond of the skill rank system of 3/3.5, I used 5E's proficiency system as maximum skill rank potential and went from there. In example, a 1st level rogue gets 4 skills, 2 more from background, and possibly one from race - with a proficiency bonus of +2. 6x2 = 12, so that's effectively 12 skill ranks. Add two more for a racial proficiency. Then, the players can put these ranks wherever they want. Someone could be 'great' at stealth, with +2, but only mediocre at persuasion with +1. It added a bit of diversity.

At level 5, the proficiency increases, so 6 more skill points, with a cap of 3 - the proficiency bonus. Adding more skills to the list was the next step - I believe I ended up adding 3? I can't quite recall in that regard, so I just gave everyone +1 skill rank to compensate.

It didn't drastically change how 5E functions, kept their same 'bounded accuracy' (which isn't really bound at all when it comes to skill, but at least we emulated it), and gave some dynamic change to the redundancy of the 7th set of 5e characters with the exact same skill sets.

As with all posts of this nature, I strictly adhere to the principle that this worked for my group and was fun, and may not be so for others' groups.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
My DMing has just been slandered!

I happily set a DC the character can't fail, and it works quite well for us.
I believe that has been dubbed immature by those who dub thusly, but since I do it too, I could be wrong. So, that's prolly immature too.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I happily set a DC the character can't fail, and it works quite well for us.
I will say that sometimes its good to let players roll those low DC rolls, because it reminds them that they don't have to have +10 in something to be competent. Its easy to fall in that trap, if the players only see DC 20s thrown around they begin to assume that if they aren't making 20's than there is no point to trying.
 

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