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rockdeworld
2011-09-03, 09:45 PM
The Problem

I've long had a chip on my shoulder about the skill system, sometimes relating to the massive number of debates that spring up around it, sometimes not. My first experience with D&D I made a ranger, saw the "Heal" skill, and thought "AWESOME! I can heal people back to full health if I put ranks in this skill." This was followed a little later by "I sure wish I had more skill points - I want to be good at knowing which direction I'm going AND be knowledgeable about nature, but I can't do both AND be a good spotter/listener."

The latter of those two thoughts followed me in one form or another with every character I made after that, except for a human rogue with 18 intelligence (and then I still had to cut a skill I wanted).

My problem with the skill system is this: there are too many skills, and they don't do enough.


The Solution

I propose a new skill list that makes sense from a game mechanics perspective, rather than a real world perspective. For example: sure Listening and Looking are completely different activities, even using completely different organs and presumably different parts of the brain. But in-game, needing to invest ranks in both Spot and Listen if you want to have a good chance at finding someone is stupid for 2 reasons. First: it cuts down on the number of ranks you can put in anything else, and no matter what class you have, skill ranks are tight. Second, Spot has way more uses than listen does (seeing something, reading lips and piercing disguises vs hearing something) and therefore you should always allocate ranks to Spot before Listen. Now I grant you that some people are better listeners than spotters, and vice-versa, but in an actual game forcing players to split ranks between them only detracts from the overall playing experience by making players into economists rather than participants in a fantasy story. That's why I suggest the following change:

The New Skill List:
(Sorted by stat)
Maneuver (Str)

Disable Device (Dex)
Escape Artist (Dex)
Tumble (Dex)
Sleight Of Hand (Dex)
Sneak (Dex)

Concentration (Con)

Knowledge (Int)
Search (Int)
Spellcraft (Int)

Perception (Wis)
Sense Motive (Wis)

Bluff (Cha)
Diplomacy (Cha)
Gather Information (Cha)
Intimidate (Cha)
Use Magic Device (Cha)

Profession
Speak Language


The Logic

The basic premise behind this skill list is that adventurers are good at what they do, and can therefore allocate full stat points to each skill they use (the skill DC system certainly assumes they do), rather than put a few points here and there so that they're half-way decent at a larger number of skills. With that in mind, each skill on the old list has been subsumed into one or fewer skills on the new list. The new skill is essentially a gluing together of each of the old skills. For example, a Perception check is rolled anytime you would roll a Spot check or a Listen check. And now for the logic:

Things PC's dont do:
Read as: Old Skill -> New Skill

Climb/Jump/Swim -> Maneuver (Str). These 3 skills are made obsolete by spells very quickly (spider climb sor2, levitate sor2 and water breathing sor3, respectively). Even if they were combined, Fighters still shouldn't take them because Tumble is a better investment even as a cross-class skill. But since we like the idea of being good at them, they're combined into one skill that encompasses all three.

Balance -> Tumble (Dex). Also note that you need balance solely for charging across terrain that the DM probably forgets exists half the time (if they're anything like me). Otherwise it's outclassed by Fly.

Open Lock -> Disable Device (Dex), explanation from Frank & K's Dungeonomicon:

Why no Open Lock skills? Open Lock is a legacy skill that makes no sense. In previous editions of D&D, a Thief had an "Open Locks" skill and a "Find/Remove Traps" skill. In 3rd edition. Find/Remove Traps got split into Search and Disable Device. Disable Device is actually capable of bypassing any device or spell-based impediment, not just Traps these days. Heck, it even has bypassing a Lock as an example task! There's a reason that other D20 games have dropped Open Locks altogether, and we strongly support that decision. In that spirit, we've dropped the Open Lock skill from all classes in the Dungeonomicon, and suggest that you allow players to use their Dexterity Modifier in place of their Intelligence Modifier for Disable Device if they want to.

Hide/Move Silently -> Sneak (Dex). It doesn't make sense for these to be separate. Characters who pick one pick both, unless they don't have enough skill points, in which case they pick Hide if they don't have access to magic, and Move Silently if they do (short of Superior Invisibility). They could be eliminated altogether due to Invisibility, and replaced with a level check for rogues, but I'm not willing to go that far just yet.

Ride -> Everyone can ride. Characters with Mounted Combat can fight while riding, even better than people who aren't mounted. New Mounted Combat: +3/+6/+9/+12 AC while riding (levels 1/6/11/16), essentially duplicating the feat (10.5+ranks+ability mod AC, which is still lower than straight armor at lower levels, and AC doesn't matter that much at higher levels)

Use Rope -> Nothing. This skill doesn't even make sense! In real life, the escapability of bonds are more dependant on the bonds themselves than people's proficiency with them. Handcuffs (and leg manacles) are better than ropes, and straightjackets are more restrictive than handcuffs. We know this. And spells that also prevent people from moving include: Sleep (Sor1), Web (Sor2), Ray of Exhaustion (Sor3), Charm Monster (Sor4), Baleful Polymorph (Sor5 and after). And we use ropes for climbing about as much as we use the climb skill - some before level 5 and not after.

Appraise -> Profession (appraisal).

Craft -> Profession (crafter). The problem is you have to pick one thing to craft, and that's it. And it can't be magical. So when tanglefoot bags stop being useful, so does crafting.

Decipher Script -> Comprehend Languages (the Sor1 spell)

Forgery -> Profession (forgery)

Listen/Spot -> Perception (Wis). See Hide/Move Silently, except these get outclassed by Divination spells, not Illusion.

Perform -> Level check for bards, since they're the only ones who need it anyways, and they don't need to be penalized a skill point as a class ability.

Heal -> Cure Minor Wounds (the Cleric 0 spell). Profession (healer) if you really want someone around to cure diseases/stop poison.

Survival -> Search (Int). We use the phrases "search for civilization," "search for food and water," "search for hazards," and "search for footprints" because we're searching. Endurance takes care of fortitude saves against weather, and if anyone has ever used survival to predict the weather with relevant outcome in a game, please tell me that story.

Profession -> Profession, but with 1 rank each, like Speak Language, because if you wanted to be a farmer, you'd play Farmville on Facebook, not D&D.

Handle Animal -> Profession (Animal Handler). See the note about Farmville under Profession.

Disguise -> Profession (Disguiser). The actual putting on of a disguise is something anyone can do. If you need to look like a guard, you get the guard's armor and wear it. If you need to look like the Mayor in order to get into his house and steal the plot device in his bedroom, you cast Disguise Self (or take his clothes). Once disguised, you have to fool others into believing something that isn't true (i.e. bluff them) in order to not "come to the attention of people who are suspicious."


Closing

So we end up with Dex and Cha being the only stats that really have skills in them, which makes sense because rogues and bards are the only classes that are really skill intensive and they use exactly those stats, respectively. We've also gone from 36 skills to 17(ish), less than half, and that means skill points are worth a lot more now, but a global "cut skill points in half" won't work because of which skills I've combined. So with this skill list, I'd assign the following skill points per class:

Barbarian: 2 + Int
Bard: 4 + Int
Cleric: 2 + Int
Druid: 2 + Int
Fighter: 2 + Int
Monk: 4 + Int
Paladin: 2 + Int
Ranger: 4 + Int
Rogue: 6 + Int
Sorcerers: 2 + Int
Wizards: 2 + Int

A few notes:
1. I have definitely been influenced by Frank & K, because I love their spirit for getting the rules out of the way of the game. To paraphrase Frank, D&D just doesn't have a fine enough grain to keep track of these things.
2. I'm not sure what the difference between Spellcraft and Knowledge (Arcana/Religion/Nature) is, but I'm not touching that because the classes who care have enough skill points not to (except clerics, they get the short end of the stick).
3. Sense Motive could arguable go under Perception too, since it makes sense, but I've never felt shorted by putting ranks into Sense Motive (except at level 1), so I didn't change it.

With all that said, Please Examine And Critique Honestly! Thank you for reading!

Eledragon
2011-09-03, 09:53 PM
seems interesting, but I can't really comment.

little nitpick: what is this Proffession skill you speak of? I don't see it in the skill list, and yet you mention it several times. :smallwink:

Jade Dragon
2011-09-03, 09:55 PM
It was all well and good until you reduced the number of skill points classes get. This is similar to what Pathfinder did, but they didn't reduce number of skill points and made it easier to purchase CC skills.

And... why are you calling it Maneuver? The name is "Athletics". 4e confirms this.

Why did you take Use Rope out? Some people tie knots harder to break out of than others, it's not just the material.

Handle Animal isn't just for horse trainers, you know.

rockdeworld
2011-09-03, 09:58 PM
little nitpick: what is this Proffession skill you speak of? I don't see it in the skill list, and yet you mention it several times. :smallwink:
It's right up there with Speak Language :smalltongue:

Sorry, I never put Speak Language on character sheets, so I dropped Profession too. I suppose I should add it I've added it now to avoid confusion.


It was all well and good until you reduced the number of skill points classes get. This is similar to what Pathfinder did, but they didn't reduce number of skill points and made it easier to purchase CC skills.
Yeah, I reduced Barbarian, Druid, Paladin, Ranger and Rogue, because that's what my gut told me. If I was less tired, I could do a better job of it (and I'm open to suggestions!) :smalltongue:

Savannah
2011-09-03, 11:45 PM
Perform -> Level check for bards, since they're the only ones who need it anyways, and they don't need to be penalized a skill point as a class ability.

So...my Rogue/Shadowdancer can't dance? And, in fact, can't even exist as there's no way for a rogue to get Perform (dance)? While I agree with all the issues you have with the current skill system, I think that you've gone too far. I feel you've simplified it too much for some of the skills and you're ignoring people who want to take skills because they fit their character concept and not because it's the most mechanically sound choice (the aforementioned rogue/shadowdancer has 12 ranks in Perform (dance) at level 11, not just the 5 required to qualify for the prestige class, because I wanted her to be an amazing dancer).

Treblain
2011-09-04, 01:19 AM
Look at Pathfinder and 4e's skills. 4e's is probably too simplified, but it's a good start. 4 or 5 more skills added would make it work more consistently.

Having most of the skills under Dex or Cha does not "make sense". It's fine if some ability scores have more than others, but giving up entirely on balance by attributes is silly.

And even with consolidated skills, most of the classes need more skill points and the means to get skills outside their class's standard expertise. It's just not fun when a character can only contribute to a limited amount of problems and does the same thing every time.

SamBurke
2011-09-04, 01:31 AM
This is exactly what Pathfinder did, so well. I'm glad to see you're coming to that end independently! It really does point out some of the finer features.

I like the fix.

Ashtagon
2011-09-04, 09:06 AM
Where did Intimidate go?

Shpadoinkle
2011-09-04, 01:06 PM
So...my Rogue/Shadowdancer can't dance? And, in fact, can't even exist as there's no way for a rogue to get Perform (dance)?

Perhaps you could use Profession: Dancer.

Morph Bark
2011-09-04, 01:39 PM
While I agree on some (mostly skill fusions and Perform), the others I don't. You're making a lot of skills into Profession skills, which means you basically make everything that isn't a Knowledge skill into a Wisdom skill instead of an Intelligence skill. Also, not everyone can cast sorcerer spells, or are you intending to allow everyone to cast the sorcerer spells you have replacing some of the skills?

rockdeworld
2011-09-04, 03:04 PM
I just took a look at the Pathfinder list, and I see that everyone who mentioned it is right. It's neat to see someone else coming to the same conclusions I did, and I like the Pathfinder list :smallsmile:


Having most of the skills under Dex or Cha does not "make sense". It's fine if some ability scores have more than others, but giving up entirely on balance by attributes is silly.
There has never been balance by attributes. Dexterity has 9 while Strength has 3. Int has somewhere between 8 and Infinity (depending on how you allocate your skill points) while Constitution has 1.


And even with consolidated skills, most of the classes need more skill points and the means to get skills outside their class's standard expertise. It's just not fun when a character can only contribute to a limited amount of problems and does the same thing every time.
I agree. I'm just trying to get the really obvious ones out of the way, so that your average fighter doesn't have to choose between being good enough at jumping, swimming, or climbing to pass level-appropriate challenges, because he's still going to need help on the other one (or two).



So...my Rogue/Shadowdancer can't dance? And, in fact, can't even exist as there's no way for a rogue to get Perform (dance)?Perhaps you could use Profession: Dancer.
Pretty much this. I'm ignoring people who take skills to advance a character concept to a point. That point is this: If you want to play a skill-intensive game where major plot points are decided by a dance-off, that's a cool idea for a game. The Perform skill as written has exactly 1 function: to get money. If you perform exceptionally well (DC30), you get 10.5gp. If, on the other hand, you kill a Duerger, which a level 1 PC should be able to do, you get 300gp. The Perform skill is so underpowered that, for better or worse, it doesn't deserve its own place on the skill list.


This is exactly what Pathfinder did, so well. I'm glad to see you're coming to that end independently! It really does point out some of the finer features.

I like the fix.
Thanks!


Where did Intimidate go?
It's still there.


Why did you take Use Rope out? Some people tie knots harder to break out of than others, it's not just the material.
That's true. However, a rope can only do so much. You can do a lot of different knots, but you can only get so good (http://www.chumpysclipart.com/images/illustrations/xsmall2/3777_picture_of_a_frightened_woman_who_is_tied_to_ the_railroad_tracks.jpg) before it doesn't matter because you're only using rope, instead of heavy iron/steel manacles. It would make more sense if you were limited on the modifier you could apply to rolls by the type of binding you had, but that's just bad game mechanics. This is honestly probably my weakest argument, and if you wanted to ignore it, that would be fine with me.


Also, not everyone can cast sorcerer spells, or are you intending to allow everyone to cast the sorcerer spells you have replacing some of the skills?
I am assuming that every group has a wizard/sorcerer/source of arcane magic, since it's part of the average party, and magic is necessary at higher levels.

Morph Bark
2011-09-04, 03:28 PM
I am assuming that every group has a wizard/sorcerer/source of arcane magic, since it's part of the average party, and magic is necessary at higher levels.

Well that will be problematic to groups who have filled their "arcane caster" slot with someone who can't cast those spells then. :smallconfused:

Also, with Profession having a maximum of 1 rank, you are blocking access to Prestige Classes that have Profession as a requirement, such as Dread Pirate and Warweaver (indirectly, since Craft has become a Profession under these rules).

Forgery also becomes sadly very easy to see through...