D&D General Vote Up A 5e-alike, Part 4 - Skills

What skills should we have and how should they be implemented?

  • Just the 5e core skills

    Votes: 6 25.0%
  • Add extra core skills (list in comments)

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • Add background and class skills (see description) to the core skills

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Replace core skills with background and class skills

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • If using background and class skills, they are individual skills (e.g., swimming, boating)

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • If using background and class skills, they are more open (Farmer, Noble, Thief)

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • If using background and class skills, add culture skill as well

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • Replace core skills with attribute skills (see description)

    Votes: 6 25.0%
  • Have class, background, culture, and attribute skills

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • Each class gets Expertise in one or more class skills as they increase in level

    Votes: 9 37.5%
  • You get Expertise as you go up in level, but it's not tied to your class (pick what you want)

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • Skill specializations

    Votes: 7 29.2%
  • No skill specialization

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • Expertise/Skill Bonuses - none

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • Expertise/Skill Bonuses - double PB

    Votes: 9 37.5%
  • Expertise/Skill Bonuses - expertise die

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • Expertise/Skill Bonuses - flat +2 per level

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • Something else entirely (explain in comments)

    Votes: 4 16.7%

  • Poll closed .

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
IMX over the decades with many systems, adding skills serves to create incompetence.
Skills only create incompetence because the designers favor simplicity over mathematics.

The problem isn't and never was skill but the designers favoring "Lol roll dice. Critical Failure!" over archetype based competency.

+4 vs a d20 means squat. +2 vs d20 means jack squattery.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Combine skills and feats into a grand list of features/proficiencies (both magical and mundane), perhaps divided into general and class specific lists, and make sure every PC has plenty of opportunities as they level to pick from those lists. It would also be a good idea to include basic competency in those areas any adventurer should be able to attempt.
This actually reminds me a bit of how thief skills were supposed to work in AD&D. It's not that adventurers couldn't climb walls; it's that only thieves could climb sheer walls with any chance of success. Anyone could try to to be stealthy, but only thieves could move silently across a squeaky floor.

This would involve a lot of rewriting. Which isn't a bad thing, per se, but we'd have to go over all of the basic feats and skills and figure out how the new version would work, as well as making sure they were balanced and there weren't trap options.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I wasn't thinking of background giving skills in any formal sense. Those would be much less formalized e.g. someone with a Courtier background might know stuff about how some local politics work but it wouldn't be codofied into a "skill".
That's pretty much what I meant when I was saying background/culture/class skills.

Instead, what I'd like to see is the "life skills" (swimming, boating, riding, etc.) and class-specific skills (pick pockets, tracking, legend lore, etc.) and that's it for skills, period. Everything else - knowledge, memory, athletics, balance, etc. - goes to simple roll-under-stat and have done with it; except "social skills" (intimidate, persuasion, etc.) just wander off into a fire and die there.
Well, I doubt this is going to go to roll-under; most people prefer the roll-above.

But the problem with the "life skills" is that there are so many possibilities, and many of them are not actually universal. Swimming and boating are basic life skills if you live near water (not useful for your desert-born PC). Riding is a basic life skill if you live in a place where mounts are common and affordable (not useful for your mountain-born PC, or your dead-broke peasant PC). This is why I would go for a Culture skill instead.

In our games we've had the "life skills" idea for some time, with proficiency for each rolled on an open-ended d10 during char-gen. They rarely if ever come up as hard mechanics during play; instead they're used as a general reference e.g. if the party is on a boat, who might have a clue what to do with it vs who should just cling to the mast and try not to fall off. They can also help with characterization and role-play e.g. if my riding skill is 1/10 then no way in hell am I getting on top of that 4-legged monstrosity; I'll walk, thank you very much. :)
Yeah, I just don't think most people are all that happy with their character being made by random rolls. Most people don't even like rolling for stats these days.

In my own games, we just let the PCs decide if their characters have a clue. A person who has proficiency in Water Vehicles obviously knows how to use a boat and can do so well, but someone who has said that their character grew up near the ocean can say that sure, they know enough about boats to at least use the Help action with the person who actually has the proficiency. Mind, the players at my table rarely try to game the system and often enjoy saying that their PCs are actually incompetant at something.

For many things this works (and roll-under is by far the most elegant).
Nah, it's just what you're used to so it's become natural to you. I've played both roll-under (AD&D, GURPS, CoC) and roll-above (just about everything else), and neither is more elegant than the other. It's just that roll-above is invariably faster and easier, which is really useful most of the time. If you want elegance, you want something that allows for degrees of success and failure--succeed or fail by X amount in addition to regular and critical successes and failures. This could be done in a D&D-alike. Level Up uses the idea for their exploration challenges. It might also help with that martial/caster divide. If you have fail, near miss, success, great success, then a fighter or other warrior might be able to inflict minimal damage or have some other effect on a near miss while a rogue or caster wouldn't. You still get that enhanced narrative, because missing by 1 or 2 isn't the same as missing by 5 or 10.

My vote would be to drop skills entirely, other than "life skills" and skills that are hard-tied to one's class.
I wouldn't mind that either, with the skills also being tied to background and culture as well as class. It's easy all around and only requires a brief bullet list in each background/culture/class that explains what the skill is used for.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
This actually reminds me a bit of how thief skills were supposed to work in AD&D. It's not that adventurers couldn't climb walls; it's that only thieves could climb sheer walls with any chance of success. Anyone could try to to be stealthy, but only thieves could move silently across a squeaky floor.

This would involve a lot of rewriting. Which isn't a bad thing, per se, but we'd have to go over all of the basic feats and skills and figure out how the new version would work, as well as making sure they were balanced and there weren't trap options.
It would indeed. Worth it IMO.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
This actually reminds me a bit of how thief skills were supposed to work in AD&D. It's not that adventurers couldn't climb walls; it's that only thieves could climb sheer walls with any chance of success. Anyone could try to to be stealthy, but only thieves could move silently across a squeaky floor.
For the first, yeah, I never encountered a DM refusing to let you climb a rope or making a Thief roll his % ability to do so.
OTOH, Move Silently/Hide in Shadows seemed to be the only mechanic to do so.
For everyone else, there was surprise. Y'know, surprise on 2 in 6, that kinda thing? That got run a lot of different ways, too, just like everything did. Maybe not, it was one of those thing a lot of DMs did differently...
(2e AD&D more than prior TSR eds, tho, with optional non-weapon proficiencies in the PH instead of the late 1e survival guides.)
Well, I doubt this is going to go to roll-under; most people prefer the roll-above.
One variation I used to use in 1e Gamma World was roll high w/o going over. So the higher you rolled, the better the result, but if you went over your stat, you screwed up. I'd generally set a lower bound, too. Matching your sat was your best possible result. ;)
This would involve a lot of rewriting. Which isn't a bad thing, per se, but we'd have to go over all of the basic feats and skills and figure out how the new version would work, as well as making sure they were balanced and there weren't trap options.
For a non-D&D example, in Storyteller everything was Attribute+Ability, as called out by the GM. (So like 5e almost did where the DM would have asked for, say, a DEX check "+ proficiency if you have..." whatever skills, maybe something obvious like stealth, maybe off the wall like persuasion.) Anyway, Storyteller had three kinds of abilities: Talents, Skills, & Knowledges. If you didn't have a specific Talent, you could roll the attribute by itself. If you lacked a specific Knowledge, you couldn't roll no matter how high the attribute called for might be.

3e had that distinction, too, with trained only checks.

It probably wouldn't require a lot of re-writing.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, I doubt this is going to go to roll-under; most people prefer the roll-above.

But the problem with the "life skills" is that there are so many possibilities, and many of them are not actually universal. Swimming and boating are basic life skills if you live near water (not useful for your desert-born PC). Riding is a basic life skill if you live in a place where mounts are common and affordable (not useful for your mountain-born PC, or your dead-broke peasant PC). This is why I would go for a Culture skill instead.
True; they'd need to be re-set by the DM if the game was to be mostly set in a non-temperate environment. I kinda default to mid-latitude temperate, where mounts are common and boating/swimming can be learned on lakes and rivers as well as on the sea.

And even a dead-broke peasant might well have had experience riding mounts on the farm. That's what the random roll is for.
Yeah, I just don't think most people are all that happy with their character being made by random rolls. Most people don't even like rolling for stats these days.
An attitude I'll do everything in my power to attempt to change. :)

Why? In this specific case, because not ramdonizing it opens the door for players to simply declare their characters are expert [insert required-at-the-moment-skill here] whenever they like; and while some pro-player-entitlement types might like that, for me it's just an exploit that shouldn't be there, and that can be easily closed off by making it a random thing.
In my own games, we just let the PCs decide if their characters have a clue. A person who has proficiency in Water Vehicles obviously knows how to use a boat and can do so well, but someone who has said that their character grew up near the ocean can say that sure, they know enough about boats to at least use the Help action with the person who actually has the proficiency. Mind, the players at my table rarely try to game the system and often enjoy saying that their PCs are actually incompetant at something.
You're lucky with your players then. :) I come from a more competitive set-up, where it's expected players will push the envelope and where it's the DM's (or the game's) job to push back.
Nah, it's just what you're used to so it's become natural to you. I've played both roll-under (AD&D, GURPS, CoC) and roll-above (just about everything else), and neither is more elegant than the other. It's just that roll-above is invariably faster and easier, which is really useful most of the time.
When you're trying to use the stat as a peg point, with a higher stat being better, roll-under skips the step of having to do any math to the die roll to invert the results, which you'd have to do on a roll-high system.
If you want elegance, you want something that allows for degrees of success and failure--succeed or fail by X amount in addition to regular and critical successes and failures. This could be done in a D&D-alike. Level Up uses the idea for their exploration challenges. It might also help with that martial/caster divide. If you have fail, near miss, success, great success, then a fighter or other warrior might be able to inflict minimal damage or have some other effect on a near miss while a rogue or caster wouldn't. You still get that enhanced narrative, because missing by 1 or 2 isn't the same as missing by 5 or 10.
That's a whole different conversation; and oddly enough I think the one place it shouldn't apply is combat. I absolutely don't want any sort of damage-on-a-miss creeping into this; people hit far too often in 5e combat as it is already, and we already have criticals (and IMO should have fumbles) to deal with the extremes.

But for many other types of check, very much yes; and this should be up-front in the advice to DMs as to how to narrate check results. If you're trying to cross a rickety wobbly bridge over a canyon at DC 12, rolling (on a roll-high system) a 20 means you dance across and make it look easy, rolling a 15 means you got across without incident, rolling a 12 means you barely got across or got across with a problem e.g. maybe you broke some bits and made it harder for the next guy to cross. Rolling anything 11 or lower means you didn't make it (fail is fail, period; none of this fail-forward crap); with how bad the roll was determining the narration of the consequences. On an 11 you might have put a leg through but are otherwise safe - if stuck - where you are; while on a 1 it's down the canyon you go, nice knowin' ya. :)
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
We have a bit of a tie, folks. "Use core 5e skills" and "Replace core skills with attribute rolls" are both at 24%. Can't have both, so which one will win?
 

I voted "just the 5e core skills", although I'd suggest a pared-down set of skills (assuming streamlining is one of the objectives). For instance, Intimidation and Persuasion could be folded into the same skill. So could Nature and Survival.
 



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