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D&D 5E When is it OK to let a player substitute one skill for another?


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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
How do they come off when you use them? I just digest them. They feel so unhinged and random like your being cheated out of something.

Not sure I follow. If you need to lift a heavy portcullis, it's just a strength check. Need to keep that heavy portcullis open long enough for the party to get through, it's a con check. Need to figure out the mechanism to keep the portcullis open might be an intelligence check because although the mechanism is clearly visible and there are instructions, the instructions were written by the same people that do the instructions for Ikea*.

Does that answer the question?

*Although admittedly that may be an investigation check, or a wisdom saving throw vs insanity. :unsure:
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
How do they come off when you use them? I just digest them. They feel so unhinged and random like your being cheated out of something.
See, this is why I think it’s misleading to conceptualize checks as skill checks first. Let’s say your DM calls for an Athletics check. You check your skills on your character sheet, see that the bubble next to it isn’t filled in (because you aren’t proficient in Athletics), but the line has a +1 on it (because that’s what your strength modifier is). So you roll a d20 and add +1. What you’ve just done is made an unmodified ability check.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
How do they come off when you use them? I just digest them. They feel so unhinged and random like your being cheated out of something.
I don’t use an unmodified d20 “luck” roll, as such, but I pretty frequently have situations where the possible results may as well be 50/50 and the players can’t meaningfully effect the outcome. This is often an answer to a player’s question about the game-world, assuming I have no immediate reason for answering one way or another (one such reason being, “sure, why not?”).

In such cases, I roll percentile dice in secret and let the player call high or low to determine whether or not the answer is positive or negative in context (depending on whether the player was right or wrong, of course).

Essentially, I’m flipping a coin and they’re calling heads or tails, but it feels more satisfying (especially with my metal dice). If I were to call for an unmodified d20 roll, it would have to be a DC 11.
 

nomotog

Explorer
Well, if you use ability checks modified by proficiency, you’d naturally make an unmodified check if you don’t have any relevant proficiency.

Not sure I follow. If you need to lift a heavy portcullis, it's just a strength check. Need to keep that heavy portcullis open long enough for the party to get through, it's a con check. Need to figure out the mechanism to keep the portcullis open might be an intelligence check because although the mechanism is clearly visible and there are instructions, the instructions were written by the same people that do the instructions for Ikea*.

Does that answer the question?

*Although admittedly that may be an investigation check, or a wisdom saving throw vs insanity. :unsure:
Oh I think I might have been too far in left field. I mean a check with no ability or proficiency modifier. So like if you were trying to do something and no ability would make sense and you don't have a proficiency to apply. The list of things that this apply for is quite small and most people will just pick a ability score.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Oh I think I might have been too far in left field. I mean a check with no ability or proficiency modifier. So like if you were trying to do something and no ability would make sense and you don't have a proficiency to apply. The list of things that this apply for is quite small and most people will just pick a ability score.

I have done that but can't remember the exact scenario. It was basically something that just more or less came down to random luck, having a die roll added a bit to the tension of the moment (and the fun). It's really rare though.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Oh I think I might have been too far in left field. I mean a check with no ability or proficiency modifier. So like if you were trying to do something and no ability would make sense and you don't have a proficiency to apply. The list of things that this apply for is quite small and most people will just pick a ability score.
Oh, I get you now. Yeah, I don’t see any support for that in the rules, outside of death saving throws.
 

nomotog

Explorer
I have done that but can't remember the exact scenario. It was basically something that just more or less came down to random luck, having a die roll added a bit to the tension of the moment (and the fun). It's really rare though.
Having a die roll also lets you use abilities like luck inspiration, or even advantage on some tiny edge cases.
 

I like skills. I really don't want a game where the only crunch is for fighting.

I was part of the playtest and sentiment for skills was strong. I find the current mechanics function better than I expected
There isn't any crunch to be removed and what crunch there is would just naturally be moved. (You would still be able to add proficiency to grappling for example, it just wouldn't be Athletics).
 

Not sure I follow. If you need to lift a heavy portcullis, it's just a strength check. Need to keep that heavy portcullis open long enough for the party to get through, it's a con check. Need to figure out the mechanism to keep the portcullis open might be an intelligence check because although the mechanism is clearly visible and there are instructions, the instructions were written by the same people that do the instructions for Ikea*.

Does that answer the question?

*Although admittedly that may be an investigation check, or a wisdom saving throw vs insanity. :unsure:
I let players add Athletics to that. I know the rules say Athletics doesn't support feats of raw strength, but since there are no other available skills and the game is intended to scale...
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I let players add Athletics to that. I know the rules say Athletics doesn't support feats of raw strength, but since there are no other available skills and the game is intended to scale...
Notably a lot of example Strength DCs are like a difficulty tier lower than one might expect (e.g. breaking out of manacles being DC 10, or “easy”), probably for this reason. I do allow Athletics to be added to most strength checks though.
 

Vael

Hero
I generally don't swap skills, but I will swap abilities. For example, I have a high-Int Mastermind Rogue. I've allowed him to use Intelligence in place of Charisma in Intimidation checks, because he's browbeating a guy with the force of his mind, like how Sherlock Holmes does.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
I generally don't swap skills, but I will swap abilities. For example, I have a high-Int Mastermind Rogue. I've allowed him to use Intelligence in place of Charisma in Intimidation checks, because he's browbeating a guy with the force of his mind, like how Sherlock Holmes does.
I dig that a lot actually. I feel like players usually want to roll their "best skill" from a pure numbers standpoint. This solution lets them get a bit of a mechanical boost while still describing the actual situation.

For example, I like substituting Int (Intimidation) a lot more than letting a player roll Int (Investigtion) in this example. The player might argue that, "I'm using my knowledge of this guy's past to intimidate him, which involves investigation," but that feels like a weak sauce substitution for the standard Cha (Intimidate) check to me. With Int (Intimidation) you can accommodate both sides of the argument and respect the unique way the player is trying to conduct the check.
 

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