Unsatisfied with the D&D 5e skill system

DM Dave1

Adventurer
I agree - one I recall was a magically warded door with an exceptionally high break DC - so high a PC rolled a natural 20 on an Athletics check and still failed to open it. If I had said "Don't roll" then they wouldn't have attempted to open the door or wouldn't have received the information that the door was incredibly hard to break.

Often though I like to tell players the target DC so they they can tell me "I auto pass" or "I can't make that".

In any case, different approaches suit different situations, different GM styles, and even different genres. And the 5e guidance is very supportive of a variety of approaches - it seeks to empower the DM, not constrain him or her.
Instead of going through the motions of a roll that is doomed to fail even on a 20, you could just cut to the chase by simply narrating: "as the party member with the best chance of breaking down a door, you give it your top effort but this door seems to be immune to your physical blows. What do you want to do now?" If you make them roll, and they roll very low, it could trigger the dreaded "waterfall" of rolls among the entire party where each player is hoping for a very high roll to succeed. IMO, better to narrate (or, perhaps like you said, tell the player that the DC is beyond reach for that strategy) and let the players move on to some other solutions.
 

S'mon

Legend
(If I've stepped in some kind of long-running feud, I'll let myself out! After all the 5e DMG is very clear we should run it however we like, it's all good, man! :p)
 

S'mon

Legend
Instead of going through the motions of a roll that is doomed to fail even on a 20, you could just cut to the chase by simply narrating: "as the party member with the best chance of breaking down a door, you give it your top effort but this door seems to be immune to your physical blows. What do you want to do now?" If you make them roll, and they roll very low, it could trigger the dreaded "waterfall" of rolls among the entire party where each player is hoping for a very high roll to succeed. IMO, better to narrate (or, perhaps like you said, tell the player that the DC is beyond reach for that strategy) and let the players move on to some other solutions.
After some attempt(s) I'll normally tell them the target number. This comes up most often with monster AC. My son is always trying to get me to tell him the monster AC before anyone has attacked it. I usually reveal the DC or AC on the second or third attempt.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Oh noes, I am cut to the quick by that rapier wit. And a picture! You pulled all the stops out on that one.

All I'm pointing out is that in some cases I allow PCs to roll even though I know the outcome because I don't want to give anything away to the players. In other cases, it's just a preference. Just like yours.
Sorry - yeah that was pretty childish of me. But, seriously, you should not invoke rapiers or [MENTION=6799753]lowkey13[/MENTION] is going to descend and start taking names!

I guess what I'm trying to say, as long as I'm being a bit childish, is: stop pooping on [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s preference. You are mocking that which you don't seem to understand and it doesn't make you look good to many of us. And you do have good things to say as I've read (and occasionally XP'd) in other threads. Peace.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The door appeared normal, but was magically warded. As it happened there was no possibility of the particular PC breaking it successfully (I think the DC was 2 higher than their roll), but the attempt did give them information.
Did you decide the door looked like that or was it in a module?

What was the meaningful consequence of failure in that situation? I could see not knowing a PC's upper limits for the check (I know practically nothing about my players' character sheets). But if there isn't an particular time pressure or anything else that would manifest as a consequence, I would not call for a check here.

I'll also let PCs roll Perception and Investigate when there is nothing to be found - we do all rolls in the open, the roll itself provides information although there is no success/failure threshold.
What information is provided here that the DM cannot impart him or herself via describing the environment or narrating the result of the adventurers' actions?

Also, as an aside, are you one of these cats who can't stand "metagaming?"
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
(If I've stepped in some kind of long-running feud, I'll let myself out! After all the 5e DMG is very clear we should run it however we like, it's all good, man! :p)
Same! I didn't write the rules, I just play by them and occasionally quote them online. If someone has an issue with rules, take it up with the designers!
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I didn't make any assertion about other people's styles, and I use a variety myself, depending on various factors, like I just said.
You did, you said, "If I had said "Don't roll" then they wouldn't have attempted to open the door or wouldn't have received the information that the door was incredibly hard to break." Given the discussion is on a style that says "don't roll" if the task is impossible, it's hard to read that as not making an assumption about that style. Context matters, here. Maybe it was a poor choice of phrasing on your part, I can see that, I've made many such myself, but you most certainly phrased it in a way that is naturally taken as speaking about styles were "don't roll for impossible tasks" is a thing.

That you carried that into a negation of action is even more concerning. It shows a broad lack of understanding about the principles involved in the style under discussion.

With the door, it was not literally unbreakable, a sufficiently high number could have broken it. For me to say "Don't roll" I would have had to first establish what the PC's maximum bonus was. Rather than have that discussion followed by you-bounce-off, for me it worked better to have player roll. It actually made for a dramatic little vignette - "No normal door could have withstood that!" Conversely with the high level Barbarians IMC I know what their minimum Athletics checks are (= STR, currently 24 & 30!) - so I will say "That was a DC 25 so you auto-succeed..." and that works well there, too.
It's fair that you don't have your player's stats memorized (although a DC 25+ door seems a bit obvious). However, that's not the point of not asking for a roll if the task is impossible or there is no consequence for failure. Here, it's pretty obvious there was no consequence for failure because you just provided information that it didn't work. Granted, that bit of information on this door showed players that it was impossible to bash, but that's not a consequence of the roll, but a consequence of that specific result. Had the result been less the a natural 20, the consequence would have been the same -- none. In this case, under my style, I would not ask for a roll, but still provide information to the party. The mistake often made in criticizing my style by those not familiar with it is that it still runs like yours -- you use rolls to convey information, I just provide the information. In the case of this door, I would have done as [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] did, and narrate as part of the description of the door that it looks nigh-unbreakable, that serious power outside the party's current ken was needed. Or, I, alternatively, would have done as I said above -- narrated the automatic failure of the action by providing all of the information you did on a natural 20. The lack of a roll doesn't mean nothing happens and the players are left with no new information. This is the assumption that comes from your style, where the roll is used to convey such, and which you assume, then, doesn't happen when no roll is made. That's not it, though, because the action is still attempted, and whatever outcome of that action obtains -- either auto-success/failure or a die roll -- information is still conveyed in the outcome that gives players necessary information to move forward in the game.

Conversely, I while I don't get the nice vignette of the natural 20 showing that the current task is beyond the strongest in the party (and I'm agreeing that's a fun outcome), I also don't have the frustration of rolling a 19 instead and wondering if it's worth it to keep trying for the 20. I recall that from my days using that style, and that's one of the reasons I switched -- that result was unsatisfying to me. If it works for you, awesome, I am legitimately glad this is so.

IMO the important thing with the 5e system is to be flexible, not doctrinaire, and use the best tools for the job.
I completely agree - doctrinaire styles really suck the wind out of the game. I'm very glad that neither I nor [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] use such a style, and also glad that you do not as well. We're all a very happy, non-doctrinaire party of gamers, yeah?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
What an odd assertion about a style you don't use! Nothing anyone has said should have indicated that not rolling means it doesn't happen. The PC could have made exactly the same roll in my game, and I wouldn't have called for a roll, I'd have narrated the failure with something along the lines of "you smash into the door a few times, but it doesn't even budge a bit." This both provides the players with the information and moves the game forward exactly the same way, just without rolling dice at all.
One major problem with the whole caveat about "meaningful outcomes" is that the DM has no way of knowing which outcomes the player will consider to be meaningful. If the player literally declares, "I keep bashing at the door until it either breaks down or I am reasonably certain that it won't break," then that's one thing. But if the player just says that they want to make an attempt, then you can't know for certain as to why they are making that attempt. And since you can't know whether any given outcome is meaningful or not, you can't skip the resolution without making an unfounded assumption. "Declaration of intent" is not part of the process of play. Players are only supposed to declare their actions.

The whole point of not rolling is that it skips the tedious process of rolling repeatedly until they succeed, but that only follows in those cases where they would actually follow that course of action. If they're going to keep trying until they succeed, then sure, go ahead and narrate their eventual success. If they make one attempt, and then stop to evaluate the outcome of that action before considering a further course of action, then rolling a 4 is meaningfully distinct from rolling a 20; the latter result indicates that no success is possible with this course of action, while the former result indicates that it might be possible.

Honestly, it's the same reason why Skill Challenges didn't work in 4E. A player needs the ability to react to the outcome of an action by changing their goal.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sorry - yeah that was pretty childish of me. But, seriously, you should not invoke rapiers or [MENTION=6799753]lowkey13[/MENTION] is going to descend and start taking names!
No worries; for some reason I don't really understand this is a touchy subject so I'm a bit over-sensitive myself.

I guess what I'm trying to say, as long as I'm being a bit childish, is: stop pooping on [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s preference. You are mocking that which you don't seem to understand and it doesn't make you look good to many of us. And you do have good things to say as I've read (and occasionally XP'd) in other threads. Peace.
That's never been my intent. It's his preference. My preference is that if someone says they use an athletics check to open a door I'll let them. If there's no chance of success if they go to try it again I'll stop them before they roll and tell them they try a few times but it's not going to budge. Maybe I'll give them a check because they have a carpentry background using intelligence or wisdom with a proficiency bonus to figure out that it's just a fake door. Same result, ever so slightly different style.

I get how people follow this way of running their games and what they do but when it comes to why I'm at a bit of a loss. It's probably just that I keep hearing that "it's the rules". I think the rules are more of a guideline than hard-and-fast rules on this one. Some people just like rolling dice or stating intent by phrasing it as a skill check so I let them. But even if it is the rules, so what? If people want to know what the rules text says, read the book. Ask for advice and I'll let you know what works for me.

This seems to me to be the same as how people describe how raw fish with plain rice and green-tinted horse radish is the most awesome dish in the world because it's sushi. It's a personal preference and just like I don't really care if you like your fish raw. I'll still take mine cooked and with a side of brown or wild rice.

As far as the OP, I simply don't think there's one best way of doing any of this. Find a balance you find works for you, try a few different options, experiment.

P.S. I really don't want to argue about this any more. Different people have different ways of playing, I think we should be able to explain what we do without getting into another never-ending thread.
 
Sure. In addition, the rules have two tools that the DM can employ:

  • Progress combined with a setback (PHB p. 174)
  • Passive checks (PHB p. 175)

So if the DM fears that some aspect of the adjudication is going to give away information that the DM does not want to give away, then use a passive check ("...used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the characters succeed at something without rolling dice...").

Or, upon failing an ability check, the DM can use progress combined with a setback. For example, "The subject is displaying body language indicative of untruthfulness, but she also signals that she knows that you saw her and adjusts her behavior." Now perhaps future attempts to discern truthfulness fails outright. Or the NPC is in a position of power and is insulted, leading to further complication. This can go a lot of different ways other than "You dunno."

It's a pretty weird position that some people take where they say they don't agree with rules I've quoted because they can't figure out how to use the said rules to solve a problem of their own making.
I thought you were quoting from the DFRPG players book, Your World. It’s a play style that FATE reinforces.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Here's another way to look at this whole issue. During game play, some skills see a LOT more use than others.

I rarely see Animal Handling checks in play. They happen, sure, but not that often. Ditto for Performance, Medicine, maybe Nature. Conversely, :):):):)ing PERCEPTION is rolled like every 5 minutes. Skills like Athletics and Arcana and Persuasion fall somewhere in the middle. Then there are oddballs like Stealth, which can be tremendously useful for certain characters and seldom used by others.

Obviously, this varies somewhat by table and DMing style. Some DMs put a lot of effort into finding uses for all skills. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that in general the current skills are not really balanced. I'm not saying that this is a problem -- I personally find the skill list "balanced enough" that it's not worth house-ruling.

But, [MENTION=23718]twofalls[/MENTION], if you are going to expand the skill list in some way, this is something you should keep in mind. Splitting up a skill like Acrobatics into Climbing, Swimming, Running and Jumping sounds good, but now each of those skills is much less attractive than the consolidated Athletics. And even though I rag on Perception as overpowered, I agree with [MENTION=3400]billd91[/MENTION] that you shouldn't split it up, because it becomes too confusing which one to use. (The fact that it is rolled frequently makes simplicity really important.)

One potential solution here is to have skills cost different amount of "points." So maybe you have Nature proficiency cost 1 point, Climbing costs 2 points, Acrobatics costs 4 points, and Perception costs 8 points, or something like that. Give everybody 4 points per skill they used to have -- so 8 points for backgrounds, 8 points for most classes but 12 for bards/rangers and 16 for rogues, 8 bonus points for half-elves, etc. This way players who pick a really great skill like Perception have to pay for it, while the low cost would allow players to pick up tons of "flavorful" but minor skills like Nature, Animal Handling, Planar Lore, Riding, Ancient History, Modern History, etc. A related idea is to have skills and fractional skills. So maybe you can buy Athletics for 6 points, or you can buy Athletics/Climbing for 2 points, Athletics/Swimming for 2 points, Athletics/Jumping for 1 point, and Athletics/Running for 1 point. If you want to get really fancy, you could do something like GURPS's "skill defaults," and say that if you are proficient in Athletics/Climbing, you can add half your proficiency bonus to Athletics/Jumping or Athletics/Running. Older editions of Shadowrun used to have a really cool "skill defaults" chart that was like a flowchart and resembled an integrated circuit, which I always thought was a really nice way to put a touch of cyberpunk aesthetic right into the rules system.

I'm just brainstorming here. My point is that the skills aren't balanced right, and you don't want to exacerbate that problem by introducing a ton of minor skills that are more-unique but less-powerful.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Here's another way to look at this whole issue. During game play, some skills see a LOT more use than others.
I agree with your post and wanted to point out that this is one of the reasons I print out a list of skills and have them handy. I make a conscious effort to make some of the lesser-used skills (and tool proficiencies) useful now and them. It's incredibly easy to get into a rut, so I look for excuses to use survival or medicine. I want to reward people for their investment and try to give everyone a chance to shine.

So part of that is trying to think of ways for myself as a DM and for my players to think of how to use skills in ways we don't usually consider.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
One major problem with the whole caveat about "meaningful outcomes" is that the DM has no way of knowing which outcomes the player will consider to be meaningful. If the player literally declares, "I keep bashing at the door until it either breaks down or I am reasonably certain that it won't break," then that's one thing. But if the player just says that they want to make an attempt, then you can't know for certain as to why they are making that attempt. And since you can't know whether any given outcome is meaningful or not, you can't skip the resolution without making an unfounded assumption. "Declaration of intent" is not part of the process of play. Players are only supposed to declare their actions.

The whole point of not rolling is that it skips the tedious process of rolling repeatedly until they succeed, but that only follows in those cases where they would actually follow that course of action. If they're going to keep trying until they succeed, then sure, go ahead and narrate their eventual success. If they make one attempt, and then stop to evaluate the outcome of that action before considering a further course of action, then rolling a 4 is meaningfully distinct from rolling a 20; the latter result indicates that no success is possible with this course of action, while the former result indicates that it might be possible.

Honestly, it's the same reason why Skill Challenges didn't work in 4E. A player needs the ability to react to the outcome of an action by changing their goal.
Most certainly I can. I ask both for a goal -- what the player wants the character to accomplish -- and an approach -- how the player wants the character to accomplish the goal. Only then can I ascertain what the challenge is for the action. If that challenge is uncertain, I can use the approach to select which ability check to call for. I keep the player goal in mind for outcomes and make sure I don't accidentally thwart the goal on a success. Not knowing the overall goal of the player can lead to succeeding at the roll but still failing to accomplish the player's goal, which is frustrating.

In other word, I'll take your first declaration of action above because it has a goal and approach -- I hit the door until it breaks. I won't take the second -- I hit the door -- because I don't have a goal to pair it with. I'll ask, "Cool, what's your plan for that -- do you want to break the door down?" After a bit, the players add this automatically. I rarely have to prompt for a goal and approach anymore.

Here's the thing -- for my style to work the players MUST trust that the GM is not playing to be a dick. It that semi-adversarial relationship that has players announcing actions without stating the goals -- hoping to sneak one by the GM. But, I've established that if I know the goal, I'll make sure the player gets a fair shake at it and will not act in a way to thwart that goal just because. This way, the players are open about what they want to do and how, and I get to make sure that the fairest resolution possible is provided. Other methods can do this as well -- I'm not at all suggesting mine is the only way to accomplish this -- but if you're going to use mine, then this is essential to it's success. If the players do not trust the GM to acknowledge and allow pursuit of their goals, it will run into problems -- pretty bad ones, actually. My method is not a panacea for all tables, by any stretch, and it's isn't a "if you do this, you'll have a great game!"either. It takes work, just like any other method.

I've modified a page from other games as a maxim. If the players are succeeding, then they're succeeding -- I don't get in the way or lessen a success, and I certainly don't thwart one. This take a good deal of flexibility in outcome, which is hard to do in 5e (or most D&D) because the nature of the game makes winging it, especially for combat challenges, more difficult that in other games that are built around this concept. I have enough experience with 5e that I can do it pretty successfully, but it's not easy (I still mess it up, less often as time goes on, but more often than I'd prefer). The flip side of this is that when players fail, I'll gleefully inflict harm to their goals, making things harder or worse or just plain ugly.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No worries; for some reason I don't really understand this is a touchy subject so I'm a bit over-sensitive myself.



That's never been my intent. It's his preference. My preference is that if someone says they use an athletics check to open a door I'll let them. If there's no chance of success if they go to try it again I'll stop them before they roll and tell them they try a few times but it's not going to budge. Maybe I'll give them a check because they have a carpentry background using intelligence or wisdom with a proficiency bonus to figure out that it's just a fake door. Same result, ever so slightly different style.
As I tried to explain to you yesterday, in the other thread, the result is very different on a failure. Failed rolls have consequences, so asking for a roll that then fails means a consequence for failure is applied. Sure, success states look similar, but the failure states for each vary greatly, so, no, it's not the same.

I get how people follow this way of running their games and what they do but when it comes to why I'm at a bit of a loss. It's probably just that I keep hearing that "it's the rules". I think the rules are more of a guideline than hard-and-fast rules on this one. Some people just like rolling dice or stating intent by phrasing it as a skill check so I let them. But even if it is the rules, so what? If people want to know what the rules text says, read the book. Ask for advice and I'll let you know what works for me.
Well, again, I explained it quite a few times in the other thread. You, like [MENTION=463]S'mon[/MENTION] above, seem to be judging how our style works from how your play. So, for you, you'd introduce the unbreakable door and then have players roll dice to try to break it to find out it's unbreakable. I don't do that at all. I'm going to straight up tell them it looks unbreakable, and, if they try, I'll narrate a failure outright with additional info like 'it doesn't even budge.' But, here's the thing, if I introduce an unbreakable door, finding out it's unbreakable is not the point of the challenge. It'll be part of some other challenge where it's being unbreakable is an obstacle to be overcome through other means. The fact that dice aren't rolled to figure out the door is unbreakable is totally unimportant to my style, because the dice will be rolled on other actions that do matter to the challenge I present. Playing in my style doesn't mean it looks just like your play only with no rolls sometimes you'd ask for rolls, it means we've prioritized the play in a slightly different way and are focusing on those situations where the dice will result in good things for the players or bad things for the players, never things that are 'eh, okay'. There's nothing wrong with using the dice more, or letting players declare actions by picking the mechanics for their resolution -- both are presented also in the DMG -- but you really need to step outside of your comfortable play assumptions and try to look at a different style as an actually different style, not just your play with this one difference.

I strongly suggest playing in a Blades in the Dark game, or a Apocalypse World game, or a Dungeon World game. These are accessible because they maintain a number of similarities to D&D (DW, especially), but use a very different style of play. You might get it a bit better by being shaken out of the long-term play you've always used. I know it helped me get it, which is honestly a fairly recent thing -- in the last 3 years or so.

This seems to me to be the same as how people describe how raw fish with plain rice and green-tinted horse radish is the most awesome dish in the world because it's sushi. It's a personal preference and just like I don't really care if you like your fish raw. I'll still take mine cooked and with a side of brown or wild rice.
Perfectly valid! But, what's happening is that you're evaluating the sushi by how well cooked it is. You can prefer cooked fish all you want -- it's delicious! -- but you can't evaluate sushi by how well cooked it is.

As far as the OP, I simply don't think there's one best way of doing any of this. Find a balance you find works for you, try a few different options, experiment.
A sentiment I heartily agree with.

P.S. I really don't want to argue about this any more. Different people have different ways of playing, I think we should be able to explain what we do without getting into another never-ending thread.
As I said in the other thread, I'd be happy to stop discussing this, just please stop misrepresenting my playstyle first. Then we can get back to happy, happy gaming, each to our own style.
 
If the core issue is "players have no idea what to do with their skills if they are not specific", then I wouldn't change the rules at all and instead simply give them a handout that lists each official D&D 5e skill with a list of things you can do with that skill.

On top of that, I'd check each tool proficiency the PCs have and then print the extract on the proficiency from Xanathar's Guide To Everything and give it to the corresponding player as an inspiration on additional things he can do.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Well, for your example, the result of a failed roll is the pc doesn’t know for sure. Let the paranoia tear your players apart. That’s a meaningful consequence.

I semi agree with isereth. If a difficult lock needs picking and there are no time constraints, why bother rolling? There’s no meaningful consequence. I wouldn’t have them roll over and over until they succeeded. OTOH, If they have 3 rounds to succeed before the ogre guard comes back, failure will have a consequence.

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes a pc skill is so high that you know they auto succeed it’s not worth rolling but they want to roll anyways. I’m cool with letting players show off their character’s abilities.

Before I call for a roll, I always think, “what will I say if they fail?”

If the answer is boring and doesn’t add anything to the plot then I find it better to just to tell them they succeed. If it forces them in to a different approach, then that’s a meaningful consequence. Can’t unlock the door? Now you have to bash it and make noise.

FATE rpg encourages this approach. 3.5 didn’t encourage or discourage any particular approach.

I just don’t want to bore my players with pointless rolls.
" If a difficult lock needs picking and there are no time constraints, why bother rolling? "

See, I can think of a lot of reasons, but as soon as I do it hits the conclusion layered into the rest of your post about " pointless" rolling or boring results.

It's kind of a catch 22 definitional thing - whether or not a roll is pointless is determined by the GM, so a GM deciding "I wont call for a roll because it is pointless" is circular logic at best. If I am not gonna call for a roll "why call it a "difficult" lock?

But just a few for instances-

That difficult lock can become jammed by the failed picking attempts (setback) requiring a different approach or tool that you have to go get.

People, real people, dont always just keep trying for a long time cuz thry *know* sooner or later they will succeed. This is the flaw in the only roll if they csa succeed, calling for a roll says *you can roll through this*. The process tells them something about the scene.

If they knew a roll would be required regardless, then that likely means after a bit of work that keeps failing they likely switch to Plan B(oot) or Plan C(limb up the outer wall) or Plan K(nock Spell) etc.

To me, "difficult" lock has to be shown to be just that, and an auto-success rarely gets that across. The marginal case eould be if an early lock system is presented so without time constraints as foreshadowing. Then, the party has long rests available *and* Intel to conclude "more like these ahead and we will be under fire" so maybe the plan and prepare quick door-beater plans (knock spells, Bulled Up Fighters to force doors, etc) for the future. But that's just as effective foreshadowed if not more with rolls and setbacks.

But for me, if I am not gonna make it a roll, it's gonna be an easy auro-success or it's not gonna be a task/challenge.

"This door is broken (reasons), so you can slide it forward but you see the lock that was there and it looks like a doozey."
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Here's another way to look at this whole issue. During game play, some skills see a LOT more use than others.

I rarely see Animal Handling checks in play. They happen, sure, but not that often. Ditto for Performance, Medicine, maybe Nature. Conversely, :):):):)ing PERCEPTION is rolled like every 5 minutes. Skills like Athletics and Arcana and Persuasion fall somewhere in the middle. Then there are oddballs like Stealth, which can be tremendously useful for certain characters and seldom used by others.

Obviously, this varies somewhat by table and DMing style. Some DMs put a lot of effort into finding uses for all skills. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that in general the current skills are not really balanced. I'm not saying that this is a problem -- I personally find the skill list "balanced enough" that it's not worth house-ruling.

But, [MENTION=23718]twofalls[/MENTION], if you are going to expand the skill list in some way, this is something you should keep in mind. Splitting up a skill like Acrobatics into Climbing, Swimming, Running and Jumping sounds good, but now each of those skills is much less attractive than the consolidated Athletics. And even though I rag on Perception as overpowered, I agree with [MENTION=3400]billd91[/MENTION] that you shouldn't split it up, because it becomes too confusing which one to use. (The fact that it is rolled frequently makes simplicity really important.)

One potential solution here is to have skills cost different amount of "points." So maybe you have Nature proficiency cost 1 point, Climbing costs 2 points, Acrobatics costs 4 points, and Perception costs 8 points, or something like that. Give everybody 4 points per skill they used to have -- so 8 points for backgrounds, 8 points for most classes but 12 for bards/rangers and 16 for rogues, 8 bonus points for half-elves, etc. This way players who pick a really great skill like Perception have to pay for it, while the low cost would allow players to pick up tons of "flavorful" but minor skills like Nature, Animal Handling, Planar Lore, Riding, Ancient History, Modern History, etc. A related idea is to have skills and fractional skills. So maybe you can buy Athletics for 6 points, or you can buy Athletics/Climbing for 2 points, Athletics/Swimming for 2 points, Athletics/Jumping for 1 point, and Athletics/Running for 1 point. If you want to get really fancy, you could do something like GURPS's "skill defaults," and say that if you are proficient in Athletics/Climbing, you can add half your proficiency bonus to Athletics/Jumping or Athletics/Running. Older editions of Shadowrun used to have a really cool "skill defaults" chart that was like a flowchart and resembled an integrated circuit, which I always thought was a really nice way to put a touch of cyberpunk aesthetic right into the rules system.

I'm just brainstorming here. My point is that the skills aren't balanced right, and you don't want to exacerbate that problem by introducing a ton of minor skills that are more-unique but less-powerful.
First, I agree with your notion, that the addition of more skills is not the right way to address the issue you describe.
I also agree that skills will not be equally frequent.

But...
I'm just brainstorming here. My point is that the skills aren't balanced right, and you don't want to exacerbate that problem by introducing a ton of minor skills that are more-unique but less-powerful."

Let me put forth my own perspective - nothing is balanced right. Unless two things are identical, they are not balanced right.

The key to balance is that it comes more from the challenge than from the aptitude or definition. The most powerful "element" or character trait in the first session of my campaign, the thing that really mattered at the end... was speaking draconian and negotiating.

The notion that any elements will be balanced as a matter of course or mechanics falls down when you realize that from one campaign or arc to the next the challenges may be very different

If Animal checks are rare, it's because those kinds of encounters or challenges are not being seen.

But also, frequency if rolls is only part of the balance. Sure, perception is called for a lot, but in my experience a lot of those are for initial info breakdowns that turn out to be middling important at best. How many times is a trait very important? How many times does it become key? That's really what a player is looking for imx when they take one trait over another. Even if it's to avoid not having it.

Rambling I guess but, to me it boils down to this - skills are balanced or not in play by the GM choices and the players choices and no amount of point buy scaling or details in function matters more than that.

So, to me, a player choosing a proficiency is their way of telling me "I want this to matter." After that it's on me (mostly) but also them to make it matter enough in play that they see it as having been worth taking.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I've modified a page from other games as a maxim. If the players are succeeding, then they're succeeding -- I don't get in the way or lessen a success, and I certainly don't thwart one. This take a good deal of flexibility in outcome, which is hard to do in 5e (or most D&D) because the nature of the game makes winging it, especially for combat challenges, more difficult that in other games that are built around this concept. I have enough experience with 5e that I can do it pretty successfully, but it's not easy (I still mess it up, less often as time goes on, but more often than I'd prefer). The flip side of this is that when players fail, I'll gleefully inflict harm to their goals, making things harder or worse or just plain ugly.
Maybe it works at your table, due to your own social contract, but it is very clearly against the process of play, which states that players declare their actions rather than their goals.

There's no way I could possibly play the way you run it, for the exact reason I don't play any of those other games which are designed to facilitate that sort of thing. It violates causality too much, which breaks immersion for me, and gives me a headache. It's great if you can run your game in such a way that everyone has fun, but you're fighting against the tide.
 

Sadras

Explorer
That said, crunch is still necessary, we are playing a game after all, and my players are all telling me what great fun they are having, but are often stuck without ideas on how to handle difficult situations (part of it is that there is no natural leader right now in the player mix). I was hoping that a more robust skill system would encourage new ideas and help guide them a bit with regards to understanding what their characters can do.
I'm not convinced that expanding the skill system would help players who are often stuck without ideas. I believe writing down Balancing, Climbing, Jump, Might, Running, Swimming, Tumbling...etc on a character sheet won't fix the issue.

IMO, expanding the skill system will serve to create greater character differentiation between two fighters of the same level with the same stat score proficient in say Athletics. One might be a better swimmer the other a better long distance runner. Or two clerics both proficient in Religion, one might be a better theologian, the other might be specialised in ecclesiology. If you're saying these additional skill words inspire creativity then having them listed on a separate page and not on the character sheet will work just as well without the added homebrewing hassle.
 
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