Unsatisfied with the D&D 5e skill system

5ekyu

Adventurer
That's creative, I've heard of systems that do similar things, typically with fate pointconcepts were the players get to influence the world during the game.
So, in a recent session, characters were heading up a rise to get yo the necromancer top the hills. They knew there were undead sll over the place and scouting had spotted a couple particular badbones.

On the way up, the druid use Pass without Trace twice at key points of vulnerability.

In both cases, I flipped a face card club, described one of the bigger threats either heading thrir way or crossing the path behind them and just keeping going because of the PWoT.

Each turn of card got an "oh crap" as they saw BIG FIGHT and then a hoot of "Hell yeah" as they saw concrete PWOT payoff. The druid was ecstatic - not just hearing "they walked by" but seeing me "burn" a card.

Later on, they saw a number of the strays heading west - out of their way. They realized the dead were going after bug bears the scouts had spotted and that this really did them a bit of assist at a key point - enough for advantage not auto-success. I turned over the 7 hearts for "mid-rank help" and so they made it to the top with a bit more resources than they could have had.

Not for everyone but works for us. Might be part of why they bother to even show up. Hard to say.
 

twofalls

Explorer
Let me ask you to perhaps indulge me with a follow-up question.

If the results from the character deciding to search a room led to a wandering monster encounter and on that monster they found treasure, would that also be something you dont understand? That's an unplanned monster and treasure find.

If not, if that's ok and hey how things are done sometimes (like since earliest dnd) why then is the result being unplanned treasure find without the monster so beyond understanding?
No, you are not catching what I am trying to say, and that may be my not saying it well. Randomness in and of itself is not bad, but to my way of playing, story is everything. I'm first and foremost telling a story with my players. Story that out of necessity involves system because we are playing a game, but with regards to how I present the world I want the system to be as innocuous as possible. I want the focus to be the setting, the immediate surroundings, and the story that flows through both of those. So when my players are rooting around in the cellar of a tower and one of them pours water onto the floor (to borrow our earlier example) I don't want it in the players minds that if they score the needed 15 suddenly treasure "appears". I want them to be excited that they discovered something that might possibly have a treasure hidden in a poorly sealed floorboard with a space beneath it. I don't often use random wandering monsters. I do when having one will add to the story I'm telling, but I don't announce to the party that I'm now rolling one of the two wandering monster checks the game calls for every day in the jungle. It just happens, like it would if you were living the story in the heat of the jungle where visibility is poor and the heat of the day is causing sweat to blur your vision. Is there an understanding that there is a system underneath it all, sure, but I want that meta to be as seamless and invisible as possible. In my games, I aim for suspension of disbelief. Verisimilitude.

You are right when you say that this isn't for everyone. I've played in groups before where the game was really just a tabletop wargame, and they loved it. I was bored out of my mind and never returned, but that didn't mean those guys played wrong. A good DM knows his players and provides a game that they will most enjoy, and vice versa.
 

twofalls

Explorer
Not for everyone but works for us. Might be part of why they bother to even show up. Hard to say.
I think you took this harder than I intended it. There wasn't any acrimony in me when I wrote it. If you felt there was I apologize.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I think you took this harder than I intended it. There wasn't any acrimony in me when I wrote it. If you felt there was I apologize.
Well asking someone why anyone would even show up to their games seems a bit dismissive of their gaming style.

I have z feeling had I said it folks would be lining up to tell me I am being rude.

But then it's a thing rounds here anyway.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
As a public service, for anyone looking to homebrew more fine-grained proficiency levels, I went and made a sheet of fractional proficiency bonus by level.

5e already has rules for half-proficiency and double-proficiency. I added a column for one-and-a-half-proficiency, which gives a nice 4-rank system for skill proficiency levels (5 ranks, if you count non-proficient).

For a smoother curve, I calculated proficiency two ways. The multiplication way is straightforward and based on the language in the PHB. For the division way, I made the table for double-proficiency first, and made it increase every two levels so that the bonus would never jump by 2 points from one level to the next. Then I divided that to get the other bonuses. This turns out to have the exact same results for proficiency and half-proficiency, but smooths out the bonus increases for double-proficiency and one-and-a-half proficiency.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
No, you are not catching what I am trying to say, and that may be my not saying it well. Randomness in and of itself is not bad, but to my way of playing, story is everything. I'm first and foremost telling a story with my players. Story that out of necessity involves system because we are playing a game, but with regards to how I present the world I want the system to be as innocuous as possible. I want the focus to be the setting, the immediate surroundings, and the story that flows through both of those. So when my players are rooting around in the cellar of a tower and one of them pours water onto the floor (to borrow our earlier example) I don't want it in the players minds that if they score the needed 15 suddenly treasure "appears". I want them to be excited that they discovered something that might possibly have a treasure hidden in a poorly sealed floorboard with a space beneath it. I don't often use random wandering monsters. I do when having one will add to the story I'm telling, but I don't announce to the party that I'm now rolling one of the two wandering monster checks the game calls for every day in the jungle. It just happens, like it would if you were living the story in the heat of the jungle where visibility is poor and the heat of the day is causing sweat to blur your vision. Is there an understanding that there is a system underneath it all, sure, but I want that meta to be as seamless and invisible as possible. In my games, I aim for suspension of disbelief. Verisimilitude.

You are right when you say that this isn't for everyone. I've played in groups before where the game was really just a tabletop wargame, and they loved it. I was bored out of my mind and never returned, but that didn't mean those guys played wrong. A good DM knows his players and provides a game that they will most enjoy, and vice versa.
I showed up at a HERO game once where they started at the police chief briefing the heroes outside the scene of the crime of the week, got the 411 then headed into the fight with the villains. When I asked naively about all that other stuff, they told me they used to roleplay, putting you in your secret I'd when the alarm went out but had figured out that roleplay of you getting away from Harry White and over to the CSOTW took too much time. It was a fun wargames session but I told them after it was not one I could attend regularly.

But, in practice my style does not make anything like that. The reverse in fact.

My style merges story and mechanics - choices to outcomes to drams.

The player who chose search skills and scores as a focus will tend to hit those high marks more often and will then see key bits coming out of that. They will find those dirty frozen keys to their character from the exceptional things they do. So, your elven scout will get a pouch of coins from his search or a stash of gems in a tree (that likely tie to stories cuz gems dont grow on trees) and as an extra bit now and again as he sees that the pouch or box has ties back to his race, his hometown, his order etc. The highly astute social bard will also find most of his high spots in social come from exceptional results in his performances or his carousing. Maybe one of the coins in his hat at the end of the day has very special meaning to him.

So the net result is that this draws ties between the abilities the player chose to make his character good at and the stories that tie into that character personally. They arent absolute rock hard chains, but just strong influences.

We tend to find that that marriage between the stuff they make their character good at and the ways their personal treasures/stories get brought in makes both more meaningful to the players and the story.

But again, not for everyone.
 

twofalls

Explorer
Well asking someone why anyone would even show up to their games seems a bit dismissive of their gaming style.

I have z feeling had I said it folks would be lining up to tell me I am being rude.

But then it's a thing rounds here anyway.
Well the apology is genuine. I have no axes to grind here.
 

Satyrn

Villager
That makes complete sense. In my "defense", the treasure wasn't fully invented. There was another chest elsewhere (DMs Guild adventure) that simply was not going to be found in the time that we had left so I played the "quantum treasure" card. And now to incriminate myself, it was not at all the same chest as in the published adventure so I guess in the end, yep, guilty as charged. Not sure if that kind of improv is inherently bad - I mean sometimes (lots of times?) players go off the figurative or literal path and the DM doesn't want to just say "nuthin' happens" every time. Maybe the good middle ground is to have a really random table at the ready so it's not seen as pure DM whim (although the players in my game still don't know what I did). On the other hand, I can see how it could be abused both by a DM and by players who know that is the DM's schtick. Anyway, thanks for getting me to cogitate on that one! Always more to learn about the craft...
Of course it's not inherently bad, and as you suggest, you really don't need to defend yourself. It's just another style. It's even the way I played most of 3e and 4e, and the only reason I'm not applying it in my current game is because I was hankering for an old school dungeon crawl where the players' primary goal is to beat it. It seemed to me that to make that work best, the dungeon had to be a preprepped entity. And I must be right (I certainly wasn't wrong) because I've found the prep work highly satisfying and it's been sheer joy to DM at the table.

Some of the issues/problems people talk about on this forum have simply vanished for me. For example, I'm sure you've seen all the talk about the adventuring day and it's complications about presenting enough encounters, how players "going nova" can affect that, etc. With the megadungeon, I just don't care what the players do. Sure, if they stop after every fight to rest, they just face more wandering monsters and their progress through the dungeon stalls. But if that's the way they choose to pay, that's the way they choose to play. The "adventuring day" is up to them. As is the challenge level. When they're finding the adveuring day is too easy (or too hard), that's on them to fix. It's an easy fix, too: they just have to delve deeper (or retreat).

I also don't care about the balance of skills, or how much use the players get out of them. Like (pulling a random example out of a hat) I don't make any effort to make sure there's an encounter where animal handing can shine. I don't think about solutions to an encounter at all. When I place a Grimtooth Trap, my notes describe how it functions, and don't address how to beat it at all. This way, I keep from locking myself into thinking there's a right way to beat the trap. So when a player decides to "remotely trigger" it by luring a skag into its clutches, I'm completely open to letting that work, and suddenly Animal Handling shines as the star because the player found a way to make it shine.



. . . and ever since I adopted this style I now regularly see - and notice! - disparaging comments here. Y'all probably have seen them too, phrases like "exploring the DM's notes" and the notorious "Mother May I." But wait. It gets worse for me. Because I also play and enjoy other, conflicting, styles I get to notice all the disparaging comments directed at those. Phrases like "saying the magic word." It's tiring.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Not sure what your looking for, but we have had a lot of success using the alternate rules in the DMG that decouple skills from a specific ability score. We have also expanded skills to include backgrounds. So if you have the "Noble" background you can make an ability check w/ proficiency for anything that relates to being a noble, even if it goes beyond the skills provided by the background.

EDIT: the emphasis with this approach is the player has to describe what their doing and how their skill or background helps them. The DM then decides if they get proficiency and what ability score to check.
I really like this idea and I think I'm going to use it. Thanks!!
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Has anyone brought up the fact that in the current edition, skill modifiers usually don't matter? A 1st level weakling with no athletics proficiency will get the same result on a hard climb as the level 20 max-strength barbarian 45% of the time. Would it matter if the proficiency involved is 'climbing' instead of 'athletics' when the numbers mean so little?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Has anyone brought up the fact that in the current edition, skill modifiers usually don't matter? A 1st level weakling with no athletics proficiency will get the same result on a hard climb as the level 20 max-strength barbarian 45% of the time. Would it matter if the proficiency involved is 'climbing' instead of 'athletics' when the numbers mean so little?
That's an idea. If you narrowed the focus of each skill, and increased the benefit of proficiency, then it could add depth to characters without trivializing skill checks (as might happen if you only increased the bonus, but didn't narrow their focus).

Personally, I would increase the proficiency bonus for skills by +4 across the board, and not narrow their focus at all, but also increase skill check DCs by +5. I don't particularly care about making the skill system any more complicated, though.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
Has anyone brought up the fact that in the current edition, skill modifiers usually don't matter? A 1st level weakling with no athletics proficiency will get the same result on a hard climb as the level 20 max-strength barbarian 45% of the time. Would it matter if the proficiency involved is 'climbing' instead of 'athletics' when the numbers mean so little?
Of course in your example it's not true but your math seems way off.

Barb 20 has Indom Might so their minimum score is 20. They auto-succeed on Hard climb at DC 20. (Not surprising, level 20 is not usually supposed to be worrying about a tough climb challenge. Thsts morevtier-1 and maybe early tier-2 "challenge" fodder.)

Weakling (below avg str) cannot succeed, cannot get to a 20 with strength 9 or less.

So, for your cherry picked example the proficiency does not matter cuz the characters specific stats and chosen DC make it automatic. If the weakling did have proficiency, then they would meet the DC only 10% of the time. So, not much of a thing.

But in general, in play, proficiencies have a big impact on play, if the GM has challenges that call them into need. This is even more true if the GM uses the DMG ability score rule where having proficiency means you can auto pass easy (DC 10 or less) checks if you do not have disad on that check.

If one finds proficiencies to be usually not mattering, that seems more a difference in GM and player expectations than a rules issue.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Of course in your example it's not true but your math seems way off.

Barb 20 has Indom Might so their minimum score is 20. They auto-succeed on Hard climb at DC 20. (Not surprising, level 20 is not usually supposed to be worrying about a tough climb challenge. Thsts morevtier-1 and maybe early tier-2 "challenge" fodder.)

Weakling (below avg str) cannot succeed, cannot get to a 20 with strength 9 or less.

So, for your cherry picked example the proficiency does not matter cuz the characters specific stats and chosen DC make it automatic. If the weakling did have proficiency, then they would meet the DC only 10% of the time. So, not much of a thing.
Yeah, I made a couple of mistakes. First up I had a moderate DC in mid, secondly I forgot about indomitable might.

Take a DC 15 and anyone who doesn't have "you succeed at your check" baked into their class (like a level 17 barbarian). Suddenly both of them fail on a 1-3, both pass on a 16+ and you can only see the poor climber fail when the good climber succeeds 60% of the time. At a DC 20, that still applies - the poor climber never passes, but the good climber only succeeds 60% of the time.
But in general, in play, proficiencies have a big impact on play, if the GM has challenges that call them into need. This is even more true if the GM uses the DMG ability score rule where having proficiency means you can auto pass easy (DC 10 or less) checks if you do not have disad on that check.
That just narrows the range where proficiency numbers matter, and makes the system less consistent.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I didn't read this entire thread so forgive me if I rehash something already stated. I also as DM have problems with the D&D skill system. To me, the d20 roll seems vastly more important than what a player is actually good at. A raging barbarian with a 20 Strength can fail to batter down a locked DC15 door, while his companion wizard with a -4 Strength, in a wheelchair, can roll a 20 and bulldoze an equally locked door. That's an extreme example but I see it happen in many ways all the time; the PCs just try to roll high, irrelevant if they are particularly good at something, and then all try to roll high at the same time, such as 5 Insight checks to see if someone is lying. But this is so baked into the rules that I wouldn't really know how to address it. I would prefer if skill were more important than luck I suppose. Of course the combat system is the same deal, but that doesn't bother me as much.

I'm inclined to often just let the PCs auto-succeed at Searching and whatnot unless I know something is deliberately hidden and supposed to be hard to find. If they kill a guard and want to loot his body, no need to roll a search check, you just grab a handful of coins.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm inclined to often just let the PCs auto-succeed at Searching and whatnot unless I know something is deliberately hidden and supposed to be hard to find. If they kill a guard and want to loot his body, no need to roll a search check, you just grab a handful of coins.
Your conclusions are supported by the rules. The DM is the only one who can call for checks anyway (not the players) and he or she does that only if the outcome of the task described by the player has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. If one or both of those elements are not in place, there is no roll - the task succeeds or fails and is narrated by the DM accordingly.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
[MENTION=31465]Nebulous[/MENTION], you might find the Angry GM's latest piece helpful too: https://theangrygm.com/being-in-flex-able/ (along with Iserith's Adjudicating Actions guide in "Best of" thread.)

Basically if you find that the game results are ridiculous you're feeding the wrong inputs into the rules. If the Barbarian fails at a strength check don't allow another PC to "have a go", the dice will inevitably roll a suitably high number to make the outcome questionable. A different PC demands a different approach or something else in the situation to change to make the additional roll (if needed) relevant.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Your conclusions are supported by the rules. The DM is the only one who can call for checks anyway (not the players) and he or she does that only if the outcome of the task described by the player has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. If one or both of those elements are not in place, there is no roll - the task succeeds or fails and is narrated by the DM accordingly.
I think we regularly flub this then. Usually a player enters a room and says, "I'm make a perception check." or "I'm going to check the door for traps." and rolls. "Or, "I don't know what this monster is, I'll make a Nature/Arcana check to learn about it" (hoping of course, in all cases, for a nat 20).

Could you tell me expressly where the rules state that the DM calls for the checks, not the players?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Could you tell me expressly where the rules state that the DM calls for the checks, not the players?
On Page 4 of the basic rules:

How to Play
The play of the Dungeons & Dragons game unfolds according to this basic pattern.

1. The DM describes the environment. The DM tells the players where their adventurers are and what’s around them, presenting the basic scope of options that present themselves (how many doors lead out of a room, what’s on a table, who’s in the tavern, and so on).

2. The players describe what they want to do. Some- times one player speaks for the whole party, saying, “We’ll take the east door,” for example. Other times, different adventurers do different things: one adventurer might search a treasure chest while a second examines an esoteric symbol engraved on a wall and a third keeps watch for monsters. The players don’t need to take turns, but the DM listens to every player and decides how to resolve those actions.

Sometimes, resolving a task is easy. If an adventurer wants to walk across a room and open a door, the DM might just say that the door opens and describe what lies beyond. But the door might be locked, the floor might hide a deadly trap, or some other circumstance might make it challenging for an adventurer to complete a task. In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action.

3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions. Describing the results often leads to another decision point, which brings the flow of the game right back to step 1.
The player is supposed to describe their action in natural language. The DM adjudicates the action calling for a ability check if there's uncertainty (and a meaningful cost to failure).

Edit: added some bold for clarity
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
[MENTION=31465]Nebulous[/MENTION], you might find the Angry GM's latest piece helpful too: https://theangrygm.com/being-in-flex-able/ (along with Iserith's Adjudicating Actions guide in "Best of" thread.)

Basically if you find that the game results are ridiculous you're feeding the wrong inputs into the rules. If the Barbarian fails at a strength check don't allow another PC to "have a go", the dice will inevitably roll a suitably high number to make the outcome questionable. A different PC demands a different approach or something else in the situation to change to make the additional roll (if needed) relevant.
Thanks, I'll check that out. But what would be the in-game reasoning to not let multiple people try the same thing, such as bashing down a door? It would be easier if D&D had more built in autosuccess rules; if you have such and such stat you just DO that thing. It seems like common sense but for some reason myself and my players have gotten into the habit of rolling too much and relying on chance. I'd really like to move away from that.
 

Sabathius42

Explorer
Has anyone brought up the fact that in the current edition, skill modifiers usually don't matter? A 1st level weakling with no athletics proficiency will get the same result on a hard climb as the level 20 max-strength barbarian 45% of the time. Would it matter if the proficiency involved is 'climbing' instead of 'athletics' when the numbers mean so little?
If you, Saeviomagy, were somehow teleported into your D&D game (Tron style) and directly onto the side of a cliff you were in the middle of free climbing and had to choose a body for the ascent would you choose....

A) 1st level weakling with no Athletics Proficiency
B) 20th level max-STR barbarian

Obviously B, because you would have a way less chance of falling to your death.

DS
 

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