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Neoxenok
2013-11-17, 06:56 PM
So whether you're aware of my other thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=297557) or not where I'm working on my own version of 3.5 edition/d20/pathfinder/whatever, I'm starting mostly with skills right now and I need everyone's help.

Basically, I want your thoughts on skills - it doesn't matter whether it's 3rd, 3.5, pathfinder, 4th, d20 modern - as long as it uses the same core ruleset in regards to making a newer and better game.

I'd like to know about your houserules. I want to know what you think needs to be fixed. I want to know what makes NO SENSE! What skills lack, what it needs more of, less of, changed, not changed, etc.

Also, if another thread has some of what I'm looking for (I'm collecting thread links to other fixes, listings of problems, houserules, and such as well to help me with my goals) - then that would help too, but that's also not an excuse to not have some of your input.

For those of you who want my current thoughts on this, this is my most recent post in my "Whole New Era" thread:

So let's talk about...

Skills

The races were a bit of a distraction, but the real beginning (other than the core combat, environmental, and exploration rules) of the changes I'll be making will be to skills.

Between my experience and the listed issues I've found that other people have had in regard to skills, I have a pretty good direction to follow through with.

The General Changes

In general, the skills will more closely resemble the pathfinder rules than that of the 3.5e rules in that all skills will be purchased on a one-for-one basis with class skills getting a +3 bonus in the bargain for being class skills. Also, several of the skills are consolidated similarly to how pathfinder did it but I'll be including several skills that PF did not and adding a few more on top of that but I'll discuss that when talking about specific changes.

A quick note for when you get to the specific changes I'm making that the skill list is essentially pathfinder's other than the modifications I'm listing.

Also, no x4 business at level one and definitely no 1 rank = +.5 for cross class skills business.

Finally, given a lot of other changes I plan on making in regards to epic levels, I've decided to standardize many of the epic level rules by including the epic level usages of skills in the first rulebook and some of those DCs will be lowered. Some of which just to make logical sense (DC 60 survival check to know what race tracks belong to? Really? You have to be the demigod of rangers just to know that wolves made a particular set of tracks vs. elder titans?)

Specific Skill Changes

Acrobatics
Acrobatics will look most similar to its PF incarnation. It's a combination of balance, jump, and tumble. Aside from including certain epic things here, I'm also returning the long jump function to be a DC of 5 + the number of feet you wish to jump instead of just being equal to the DC.

Appraise
Appraise and its use has always been markedly specific. You use it to find the price of things. That's it. Yet, the process of finding out the true value of something - or even a ballpark estimate - does and should involve more knowledge than that - in reality - it would be a combination of the item's history, creator, materials, craftsmanship, utility, and probably several other I'm forgetting - in a fantasy setting, this would also include the magical properties of an item.
So I've decided to expand the use of this skill to include not only discovering the price of an item but also what it can do. You can now use this skill to discover the properties and function of an item. Any item or object with an increasing DC depending upon the rarity and magical power of the item. The DCs are halved if you're just shooting for the lore of an item.
This does steal the thunder from spellcraft, which in pathfinder is the skill you'd use to identify a magic item. I will be repurposing spellcraft a bit as it seems to be a hodgepodge of functions all unrelated except by the subject of magic.

Autohypnosis
This skill will be about the only psionics skill that won't be folded into a magical counterpart and although I'll be doing to concentration what pathfinder did, any other functionality not attributable to casters will be put here as well. The old 'stabilize self' skill will be represented here as well, along with any other alterations that seem appropriate.
As a skill, you'll use it as an overarching "discover how to overcome body with mind" sort of skill.

Bluff and Diplomacy
These skills will look a lot like Rich's diplomacy fix... with some modifications but their function will remain largely the same.

Climb, disable device, escape artist, fly, handle animal, Intimidate, knowledge skills, linguistics, perform skills, profession, ride, sense motive, swim, and use magic device
These skills will largely change the least (compared to pathfinder's changes to 3.5) other than the epic level usages will be incorporated into them as mentioned before. There are a few exceptions in that the knowledge skills will have more uses - things like knowledge geography might be used to cut travel time (epic level usages almost as good as teleport) and I'll be adding a perform (ritual) skill into the mix of perform skills, which may have functionality when it comes to how I'll be changing the magic item creation stuff. I'll also try to make intimidate more useful.

I may also revise certain aspects of the knowledge skills as such that I'll introduce tiers as to identifying creatures - for example, it might be a DC 11 to learn a creature's creature type and all the associated things associated with the creature type, but nothing else about the creature. It might be a DC 15 + 1/2 HD (minimum 11) to learn what the creature is and perhaps some lore about it (which may reveal it's "common" abilities) and a DC 20 + hit dice would reveal everything about it in terms of strengths, weaknesses, and general lore.
There'll also be a table that'll adjust monster lore up or down based on rarity, so the DC will be lower for Ranger Steve for identifying bears in the great Bear Forest of Bearrington Lands that he commonly patrols than for Horse Bill, who has never seen a bear in his life. (Just camels.)

Craft Skills
There are a number of changes I wish to make here:
1) I want to make the actual crafting of stuff more... a lot less convulted. I think it needs simplification in a number of ways. I've tried forcing people to use it but no one likes making weekly/daily/whatever checks to do a few gold worth of work a week on their 1500gp suit of full plate or even their 100gp chain shirt, especially if it only takes 1 bad roll to mess up their entire thing or (even worse) if one screw up just messes up the fraction of the whole thing they were working on that week and have to figure out how much of that fraction they have to re-pay into their armor and... sigh.

I don't know exactly how I'll simplify it right now, but I'll find a way.

The other change is much much bigger as magic item creation will be entirely folded into skills - most of which will be the craft skills, but it may leak into the profession and perform skills as well. There will be one feat (craft magic items) that ANYONE can take (though that may require at least 1 rank in spellcraft). The difference between this and pathfinder is that more skills will be involved and spellcasters won't be able to cheat their way out of the craft skills by having all items be able to be made with spellcraft OR X whatever other skill. Those bracers of armor will require craft (jewelry) or that fortification full plate will REQUIRE craft (armorsmith) and so on.

Disguise
I honestly do not know if disguise let you actually "act" in character as whomever you may be impersonating, but I think it should definitely have that functionality if it didn't before.
Although this may run into issues in relationship to both perform (act) and bluff - not that I have a problem with cross-skill pollination of use, particularly considering that perform (act) may be more "the ability to pretend to be someone else to entertain" vs. "the ability to pretend to be someone else to replace that person" or somesuch. This'll obviously require some work.

Endurance
This skill I'm adding from 4th edition as I believe it does have some usefulness. It'll essentially replace all the things that you had to do a straight constitution check before (modified only by the endurance feat) especially considering that, in real life, you can train your body to endure quite a bit and I'm sure it'll have interesting epic functions as well.
Of course, adding a new skill in is one thing - making it unique and USEFUL will be something else, but weeding out useless crap is what rough drafts are supposed to do, right?

Heal
In addition to its usual (pathfinder) functions, you can also use this similarly to craft (alchemy) and make herbal remedies and non-magical fantasy healing stuff on par with alchemic items, but give non-casters access to things that'll repair hit point damage, ability damage, ability drain, and anything else that would be permanent if not without a magic spell to repair it.
If auto-hypnosis and craft (alchemy) are the non-magical psionic and arcane skills, then heal will be the divine/heal-monkey skill.

I've also had a houserule as a DM that allowed someone to combine the effectiveness of the heal skill and actual healing magic. As such that someone applying a curing spell out of combat could use the heal skill in order to increase the effectiveness of cure spells that I'll incorporate into the heal skill as well.

Investigate
Investigate is the new one that I'm adding - which basically comes from d20 modern. It'll also contain the functionality of the old search skill, but also a little bit of diplomacy and such. It'll represent a character's ability to get information and look for a particular thing or person. It's about looking for the right details and asking the right questions.

This MAY also include merging gather information here instead of diplomacy but unlike diplomacy (or intimidate), this doesn't involve threatening or persuading, but instead the ability to think about how questions, people, places, and things relate well enough to form mental connections to solve a task.

I think this is different enough from search, gather information, and diplomacy to warrant being a separate skill.

Perception
I never thought it made much sense to have separate rules for perception and certain extra-sensory abilities, like darkvision, scent, blindsense, sonar, and whathaveyou. Instead, all of those senses will be rolled into perception in the way that lowlight vision does.

How this'll work is that perception will be based on standard human vision and hearing (and some added rules on how to use your feeble sense of smell, touch, and taste) but other super senses will merely be modifications of the perception rules. Darkvision will negate the blinding effect of complete darkness, but will always operate at, maybe, a -1 per 5ft instead of the 30ft and -1 per 10ft beyond that for normal vision and unlike normal vision doesn't get boosted by environmental factors (like a clear day allowing someone to see for miles instead of being blind out to X00ft.)

By the by, even though it's utterly stupid to interpret the rules as "well, perception gives you a distance-based penalty, so it must apply in all conditions, even in broad daylight, I'll mention in the entry that different conditions can alter how far you can see. Also, that -30 you're getting doesn't prevent you from seeing, it just prevents you from, for example, seeing the American flag pin on the red, white, and blue jacket from 1500ft away. That doesn't mean you can't see the person at all.

So, I'll include language basically stating that, although it'll be true for darkvision, sonar, and so forth - they'll just include different rules about how they work based on how perception works instead of darkvision 60ft or whatever.

It does go against my "reduce complexity" purpose of the game, but it's one of only a few cases where I just want those things unified to make better sense.

Sleight of Hand
Unlike what pathfinder did, I'll be merging the functionality of use rope with sleight of hand. It won't make much of a difference, I think, other than that it can be improved like a skill again.

Stealth
The big change I'm making here isn't so much with the stealth skill itself, but something else that was brought to my attention - a fine creature has a +16 bonus to stealth! Two fine creatures can hide from one another with no worry of being found.
Well, I decided to change the size bonuses/penalties to stealth to be similar to the one from intimidate - where it depends on the size difference and whether you're bigger or smaller. For example, a Halfling is going to have a +4 size bonus to stealth vs. a human, but gets no bonus against another Halfling and gets a -4 penalty to his pet cat.

Spellcraft
This skill is getting hit by the nerf bat a bit. I think it did a bit too much - especially when it came to identifying and crafting magic items, so those functions were moved to other skills (appraise and crafting), except for IDing potions, reading scrolls, and a few other things.
You'll also still use it to learn new spells and identify active magic spells and differentiate between a wall of iron created by a spell or an otherwise identical iron wall made the old fashioned way.
It'll also be used in many ways in regard to spells and warping them and twisting them in ways that might be useful - perhaps core rules in turning standard spells into nonlethal variants or changing them enough to make them less identifiable by other casters or other such functions.

Survival
Most of the changes with this skill will just involve changing some of the more ridiculous DCs that some things in survival have and perhaps add a few other things, like modifiers to finding food based on its rarity (and failure could have consequences that are as hilarious as they are deadly).

"Those berries taste like... burning..."

///////////////

So that's about what I currently have in store for skills. I'm considering making a separate thread just about skills since I've only just started that way I can get more exposure in terms of questions/comments and pointing out issues I haven't thought about yet.

Thanks for listening! :)

So I also would enjoy discussing any differing opinions or things I just forgot about as well.

Thanks!

Rebonack
2013-11-17, 07:22 PM
I'm fond of rolling Knowledge into one single skill rather than half a dozen plus whatever random new Knowledge skills splat books conjure into existence. Knowledge represents the general book-learning of a character and they're rolled pretty much as per normal. For every skill point you put in Knowledge you can pick a single subject that your character is specifically familiar with, granting them a +1 bonus to knowledge checks regarding that subject.

For example, Bob the Builder has placed 2 rank in Knowledge. Because he knows a lot about building, he picks Masonry and Carpentry as his two focused areas of knowledge. So now Bob has a +5 bonus on general knowledge checks and a +6 bonus on Masonry and Carpentry knowledge checks.

For added fun, if a player identifies a monster and beats the check DC by 5 or more he can pick either a +1 bonus to attack rolls or a +1 Dodge bonus to AC against it. If he beats the DC by 10 or more he gets both.

Eldan
2013-11-17, 07:28 PM
Most people like to consolidate skills. I, on the other hand, think there's not remotely enough skills. Why should hiding from sight be the same skill as moving silently? They work differently, different boni apply to them and they are countered in different ways. Same for different senses. I quite like having the choice of playing a character good at seeing, but bad at hearing, or the other way round. Same with "Athletics". Sometimes, a character can jump, but not swim. I think, in total, I've actually added about a dozen new skills, though I can't remember them all. I've split survival up, I think, with one being navigation and the other still being survival and I've added a few magical and planar skills as well.
Next, I want to entirely abolish the idea of class skills. Sure, some skills have more benefit forcertain classes, or make slightly more sense thematically. So what? Between multiclassing, alternate class features and homebrew, classes don't define character concept anymore, they just give you the abilities you need. Same with class skills. Perhaps my sorcerer was banished from his village when he was 13 and accidentally cast his first spell and lived in the wilderness for 10 years. I want him to have survival as a skill, without having to jump through hoops like multiclassing or taking feats. Same goes for any character. If your barbarian really studied spirits with his tribe's shaman, he should be able to take knowledge skills like nature and religion.
Of course, since there's more skills and everything is a class skill, there also need to be more skill points. In general, no one should just have 2+ skill points. 6+ for everyone is the minimum, except for intelligence based casters.

For a few specific skills:
Appraise is the only skill I think can really just go. Instead, I allow fitting craft, profession or knowledge skills to appraise items.
Knowledge: totally borked in the core rules. One of hte few good things 4E did was change them, giving a list with DCs for each creature. A dragon with 30 HD is not six times harder to identify than the same dragon's 5HD baby.
Attack bonus. Yup. Base attack is a skill now. You buy points per weapon group, as per the Unearthed Arcana variant in the SRD.
Knowledge: I change the available categories of knowledge based on campaign setting. In Planescape, I usually don't have Knowledge: Planes, but something like "Transitive Planes", "Planes of Law", "Planes of Chaos", "Planes of Good", "Planes of Evil", "Inner Planes" and "The Prime".

Just to Browse
2013-11-17, 07:38 PM
There are so many angles to demonstrate that skills are bad that the good can only be summed up as "guidelines for things outside of combat" and the bad is "everything else".


DCs/accomplishments scale poorly
The RNG is too big
They offer disproportionately large rewards for investment (stealth v. use rope)
They are all-or-nothing
They don't cover enough conceptual space
They cover certain places with too much conceptual space
They don't benefit mundanes enough
They don't benefit casters in any exciting ways
A minority are skill taxes
Their benefits encourage min-maxing
They don't represent expertise well
They don't represent unskilled-ness well
They eclipse stats
They are eclipsed by stats
Smart people are better mountain climbers than strong mountain climbers


And we're not even talking about specific skills, like 4th edition's abysmal failure of skill challenges, or 3.x requiring you to pay twice as many skills to play the nonfunctional stealth game, or d20 modern's 9-page monstrosity of Driving rules.

If you're planning on building a skill system from scratch, you don't (and indeed shouldn't) use D&D as a base. Find good things you like about skills, then write those things.

Arkhaic
2013-11-17, 08:08 PM
The main problem with 3.5 skills is that they get totally eclipsed by binary options. Why invest in spot when you can get mindsight and just know the location of everyone around you? Why jump or climb when you can fly? Heck, I'd say too many binary attacks and defense is the main problem of 3.5.

NichG
2013-11-17, 09:12 PM
I'm going to speak in generalities here, because my intent is more to suggest design principles than nitpick particular problems with certain skills in D&D as it stands.

- Avoid 'we can just reroll until we get it'. Very often there are skills where there is no real reason for the character to not be able to keep trying over and over. A roll vs a certain DC is a bad model here, because there is basically no reason other than time not to take 20. This can lead to situations in play where the player fails, tries again, tries again, etc, then succeeds - it would be better to just skip to the success, or immediately make the player aware that success is impossible.

To this end, I'd suggest having certain 'flat' requirements for basic tasks, where you just automatically succeed if you meet them or automatically fail if you don't. These would basically be the equivalent of a 'forced' take-10 or take-20 for cases where its important to know if the character can do it or not, but failure isn't actually interesting (in the sense of, it doesn't have any real consequences of relevance beyond not being able to do the task).

- Avoid modifiers/external sources outweighing investment. In D&D its very easy for contributions to skills due to magic items or spells to grossly outweigh anything you could get for actually putting ranks into things. For this reason, I'd suggest de-emphasizing skill modifiers in general, and instead focus on skill ranks as the core element of the system.

My suggestion here would be to do something similar to skill tricks, but every skill has them and you get them for free as you invest in the skill. Maybe fold many of the epic uses into this system. That way someone who has dedicated their life to being the 'best bluffer ever' has advantages that can't be trivially outdone by Glibness and an item of +20 to Bluff.

- Encourage proactive use rather than 'go fish' style skills. In general its better if a player can say 'I use my X skill to do Y' than having to hope that the DM will call for a skill check they're good at this session. Furthermore, if you rely on the DM to call for checks, you're basically playing a game of 'figure out what the adventure will be about ahead of time', which is pretty meta-gamey and isn't very immersive. This sort of means treating skills the same way you'd treat spells - each skill should have a list of things that you can actively use that skill to do.

Take Spot, for example. This is sort of the quintessential 'wait for the DM to ask' skill. But you could do things like 'You can spend a move action to look for gaps in the enemy's armor, negating up to one point of armor-based AC per 4 ranks of Spot for the rest of the fight.' or 'X ranks: During the initial round of combat, if someone attacks you before your round comes up, you can bump up your initiative to go immediately after them'.

- Be careful about multiplicities and the consequences of success or failure. It is harder to avoid being seen than it is to detect someone hidden, because you must basically pass 2N rolls where N is the number of observers in order to remain hidden. The more rolls you add, the lower the chance of an overall success is. Keep this in mind when designing skills, and limit that sort of situation to things where you want the system to discourage a certain behavior.

- Avoid too many 'defensive' skills. Spot and Listen have the problem at high levels that basically if you don't invest in them, you're helpless against someone who has invested in Hide and Move Silently. The more 'defensive' skills you have, the more broadly people have to invest to be moderately competent about not being completely bypassed by someone who has focused into a particular 'offensive' skill. E.g. if you decide that Diplomacy is mind-control blocked by Sense Motive, now Sense Motive becomes important for everyone, not just the one guy who wants to be very good at reading people.

- Similarly, avoid auto-success or auto-failure on opposed rolls for characters of comparable level. This can make an encounter go from difficult to literally impossible, which is frustrating or removes tension. For example, a rogue with Hide in Plain Sight and a Hide/MS modifier pumped far above what someone who hasn't similarly pumped Spot/Listen could hit. This requires careful balancing of the possible modifiers and the dice mechanic you use for skill checks. An exploding die mechanic (if you roll a 20, roll again and add) can help round out the absolute success/failure cutoff at high levels, for example. The ability for a character to spend resources to pump a 'defensive' roll, but not an 'offensive' one is another solution here - e.g. something like action points.

- Avoid Save DCs set by skill checks. Skill checks are easy to pump in D&D, Saving Throws are not.

Neoxenok
2013-11-18, 09:36 AM
This is in response to several points that everyone so far has made -

In regard to skill consolidation:

As it stands, my skill list looks like pathfinder's, plus autohypnosis, endurance, and investigation, although some functions of skills are being switched around. The other psionic skills are being folded into their magical counterparts.

I know it doesn't make sense to always have one particular skillset as a set as perhaps being a good linguist and easily learning language doesn't necessarily mean you're good at detecting or making forgeries or deciphering languages you don't already know.

I don't like how consolidated the skills in 4th edition were and I especially don't like how 4th edition eliminated everything skills could be used for out of combat but an expansive and detailed list of many skills is going to be prohibitive to gameplay short of drastically increasing the number of skill points. It'll also cause issues in character creation so I do have to consider a balance here especially given my experiences in dealing with d20 modern's massive skill list.

Hiding isn't necessarily the same sort of skill that moving silently is, but if you have to always take both to successfully stealth, then consolidating the two seems to be the only course - particularly since one of the chief complaints about the 3.5e rogue was that you have to use all their skill points just to cover your core rogue sneaking/trapfinding bases!

So, in short, I have to find a middle ground here between d20 modern and 4th edition.

Appraise - I agree that appraise could go, but I took the option of just giving it more stuff to do. Right now, I decided that you can use it to identify things and discover how they work. (Which you would NEED to know to find the price of the item in the first place.)

It's something I took from spellcraft (which PF used as the go-to identification skill), so that skill does a little less now, but I'm thinking of adding a few things as a replacement that'll allow it to live up to its actual name.

Knowledge Skills - I completely agree that they need more to do and certain issues need to be weeded out.
I've always had issues as a DM with identifying monsters, especially when it comes to things like dragons where you can be familiar with its powers as a baby but haven't the slightest clue what the great wyrm of the same dragon is capable of.
As an extension of that, I also found it strange that you couldn't identify the type of creature (say, undead vs. dragon, vs. humanoid vs. tannar'ri vs. elemental (fire)) and similar basic information even if you could identify the undead traits of a skeleton but it's impossible for an atropal scion.

So... yeah... that needs to be fixed. I'm thinking language in the text that specifies that the DC must be based on the lowest HD version of an adult example of the species with special modifiers based on rarity (such as if a creature is rarer in an area or just in general - like doppelgangers in Eberron for rarity or Bears on Bear Mountain for commonality.) Also, perhaps a flat DC 11 to get information about creature type - to know that a dragon has the dragon type or your pet housecat has the animal type and all the associated information with it.

The Stealth Game. Thanks to an article written my Justin Alexander (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/13185/roleplaying-games/untested-d20-piggybacking) this is something I feel I need to pay attention to.

I am following pathfinder's route of using perception vs. stealth instead of spot & listen vs. hide & move silently so cutting down the dice rolls by half is a good step in this direction.

Beyond this, short of giving rules that say "if one person is skilled in X skill, then everyone is" then I don't really know what else to do.
Trying to move a whole team of people where only one person is at all skilled in stealth or even if everyone is equally skilled in stealth is harder than moving one person - especially if that area is patrolled by people that are experts in spotting trespassers (full ranks, class skill bonus, at least a +1 wisdom, skill focus (perception), maybe a racial bonus or alertness feat).

As a DM I usually just had the stealthier roll against a flat perception DC instead of dealing with opposed rolls. (Part of this was also to cut down on rolls on my part and also to keep the player in the dark as to whether someone is even watching or I'm just having them roll to make them nervous.) This way, it also doesn't become a contest between the lowest d20 roll of the rogue vs. the highest perception roll of the watchers.

Perhaps this could be an exception to the rule that you can't take ten when there are penalties for failing or perhaps all skill focus feats and the +2/+2 skill feats will also let you take ten instead of making it a rare rogue ability.

... or I could take Alexander's piggybacking houserule or some modification of it.

In regards to Spells, I understand how spells often usurp skills. Some of these are unavoidable because of being staples of fantasy (flying and polymorphing into flying creatures) but others, like knock, glibness, and invisibility, do cause serious issues with the game in regard to skills.

I do want to do something about this and without going into more detail than I need to about what I would like to fix about the magic system, a lot of spells that grant skill bonuses directly (such as glibness or disguise self) will instead grant a spell-level based bonus and all magical bonuses cap at +10. Magic items that grant skill bonuses will also cap at +10 (won't stack with spells) and become much more expensive.

One of the things I definitively wished to change with the above fix is how a wizard (or other int-based character) with craft wonderous could just invest a rank or two in every skill and make a cheap +30 skill boost item and become instantly better than most people at it - especially for int-based skills like knowledge skills or disable device (in 3.5e).

Knock will simply allow the caster to make a check with a bonus. Invisibility... I don't really think it needs much changing - it's a DC 20 to find a moving, invisible person. I do think I need to fiddle with this some because some rules about invisibility, stealth, and perception is confusing.

... but yeah, I have a lot of ideas about spells but I won't be approaching my fixes to spells for some time yet.

Skill vs. Skill Balance
This is also part of the reason I picked pathfinder as the base instead of 3.5e D&D because it did manage to fix this issue to some extent.
No matter what I do though, Perception will always be the most valuable skill if not one of the most valuable skills and as long as there are always choices, there are going to be better ones and worse ones.

So what I'm saying is that I don't feel it necessary make knowledge (history) as useful as use magic device but I would like to avoid Intuit Direction type skills. Remember that one? Me neither.

Just Reroll it Until I Get it
If there's no penalty, then that's just taking 20. A perfectly viable option.
I'm not sure what you're grabbing at here.

Investing in Skills vs. those that didn't Invest in the Counter-Skills is something that I think... well, I think if someone was trying to be the best stealth-monkey in the game that I think that investment should pay off and that player should benefit from it. I'm not a fan of giving NPCs a boost to "add tension" by negating something that the player invested a lot of resources in.

Skill-based Saving Throw DCs is something I can't agree more on... at least in the way that the bard's perform skill used to set the saving throw DC for his performances. If it worked like "10 + 1/2 your skill rank investment + your skill's ability modifier (+3 if you took skill focus but no others) then that might be easier to swallow.

This might be important for when I get around to the feint and demoralize rules but more likely, feint will work by using the skill to beat a DC equal to the opponent's sense motive modifier + 10 or 10 +the opponent's base combat bonus (my replacement for BAB) + wisdom.

Auto-Anything
Skills in D&D, d20 modern, and PF don't fail on a 1 or auto-succeed on a 20 and that's not something I intend to change for precisely the sorts of problems that this would cause.

Well, that's all I can think to say at this point. Thank you all very much for your responses so far. You've all been very helpful.

I'll also note that I've been using the dysfunctional rules threads (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=267985) as my guide as much as anything so I've been trying to pay attention to what people have been saying are issues with skills and other aspects of the 3.5e system (more of which I'll get into in the future, but this thread is focused on skills exclusively for the time being.)

NichG
2013-11-18, 10:56 AM
This is in response to several points that everyone so far has made -

The Stealth Game. Thanks to an article written my Justin Alexander (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/13185/roleplaying-games/untested-d20-piggybacking) this is something I feel I need to pay attention to.

I am following pathfinder's route of using perception vs. stealth instead of spot & listen vs. hide & move silently so cutting down the dice rolls by half is a good step in this direction.

Beyond this, short of giving rules that say "if one person is skilled in X skill, then everyone is" then I don't really know what else to do.
Trying to move a whole team of people where only one person is at all skilled in stealth or even if everyone is equally skilled in stealth is harder than moving one person - especially if that area is patrolled by people that are experts in spotting trespassers (full ranks, class skill bonus, at least a +1 wisdom, skill focus (perception), maybe a racial bonus or alertness feat).


In my current (non-D&D) campaign, there's a Stealth 'waza', sort of a skill trick equivalent, that allows someone with high enough Stealth (the equivalent of 10 ranks) to basically make a check to cover a group. You could also just make it so that someone can take a -5 or -10 to their Stealth check to be able to apply their check to other group members whose checks were lower, for example - that covers it being harder to move in stealth as a group while still making it possible.



In regards to Spells, I understand how spells often usurp skills. Some of these are unavoidable because of being staples of fantasy (flying and polymorphing into flying creatures) but others, like knock, glibness, and invisibility, do cause serious issues with the game in regard to skills.

I do want to do something about this and without going into more detail than I need to about what I would like to fix about the magic system, a lot of spells that grant skill bonuses directly (such as glibness or disguise self) will instead grant a spell-level based bonus and all magical bonuses cap at +10. Magic items that grant skill bonuses will also cap at +10 (won't stack with spells) and become much more expensive.


Personally I would remove all spells and effects that give numerical bonuses to skills, and just leave it be with the spells that have 'obvious' implications to making skills moot like Invisibility and Fly. The plus side with this is that if there are high-end skill-based abilities (like the epic skill check results) that are distinct from the core function of the skill, those spells won't let you hit those epic DCs, whereas investing in the skill will.

So if you can personally turn invisible, thats great for you hiding, but you can't hide the party with that. Or hide your item/spell/whatever auras from detection spells (which I think would be a great high-end Stealth ability). Or hide your mind from a telepath (another great high-end Stealth ability).

If you can personally fly, it may make Jump seem obsolete, but you don't get all of the combat maneuvers based off of Jump. If e.g. Leap Attack were essentially something any character with 10 ranks of Jump could do, that goes a long way to making it relevant again. Maybe even have Jump cover flight maneuvers too at the high-end - if you want to use a Dive attack, etc, thats a Jump check even if you have a source of magical or non-magical flight.

The other thing is that even with your reduced rules, +20 is basically the total character investment of a Lv17 character into a given skill. So with an item and a spell, you replicate what it means to be a Lv17 skill monkey. Consider, would you allow a +20 sword in your game? Part of making skills relevant is to treat them on the same footing as other things like saves and attack rolls, which means reducing how easy it is to pump them super-high.



Just Reroll it Until I Get it
If there's no penalty, then that's just taking 20. A perfectly viable option.
I'm not sure what you're grabbing at here.


Its a player psychology thing. Players take awhile to be comfortable saying 'I take 10' or 'I take 20' and knowing when one or the other is safe to do. DMs often resist 'I take 20' by adding contrived failure consequences because they feel that there should be some consequence for failing the roll or the PC will just keep rolling. Another problem can be that they don't realize that they should be designing DCs based on taking 20 in some cases, versus based on taking 10 in other cases.

Here's a for-instance. IMC a character was trapped in a sealed room behind a door that was rusted shut. It required some sort of Strength check, either from them or outside helpers, to get the door open. They tried it once from inside, failed, but later when help came I had to very strongly hint 'now that you have help, maybe you could try that Strength check again?' - because they had concluded 'my roll failed, therefore the door cannot be opened this way'.

In another situation, there was a character trying to climb a masonry wall to get to the rooftops. They tried a climb check, failed, tried again, succeeded, made it up halfway, failed but not badly enough to fall, tried again, failed but not badly enough to fall, tried again, and made it up. The entire sequence was very tedious. There were technically consequences for (an extreme) failure - if they failed by enough they could fall - but basically even if they fell it'd be an insignificant amount of damage. So basically, as a DM the right thing to do would have been to let them 'take 20' despite there being failure consequences, because the failure consequences were basically trivial.

So basically I'm thinking it would be better to take the 'false choice' of not taking 20 away in situations where its not actually interesting to roll things out.



Investing in Skills vs. those that didn't Invest in the Counter-Skills is something that I think... well, I think if someone was trying to be the best stealth-monkey in the game that I think that investment should pay off and that player should benefit from it. I'm not a fan of giving NPCs a boost to "add tension" by negating something that the player invested a lot of resources in.


The problem is something like this:

Lets say you're Lv5 and have maximum ranks in Stealth (8). We'll drop the attribute effect.

Against an untrained spotter (0 ranks), they have a 16.5% chance of failure. Thats not too bad, but it also means that its not 'a given'.

The equivalent to this at Lv20 is for them to make maximum ranks in Stealth (23) and the spotter to have 15 ranks in Spot.

But, a Lv20 character who has bothered to put 15 ranks in spot probably would just max it out. So now either you are coming up against a 'dedicated spotter' in which case you have a mere 50/50 chance of success, or you have a 100% chance of success. Effectively, the gamble is now far more binary - you're betting not 'can I make this roll' but 'did the DM put a dedicated spotter on the enemy team?'.

Furthermore, if the DM doesn't put a dedicated spotter on the enemy team, your high skill check can bypass huge sections of the adventure. So the DM is encouraged by the system to enter into an arms race with you, thus neutralizing the value of your skill. At Lv5, the DM could have just let random guards without training in perception be around, and it would let you succeed most of the time while also encouraging you to not hang around unduly (e.g. still some chance of failure). At Lv20 the DM no longer has that choice - they either must decide in the adventure design phase 'the stealth guy will autosucceed' or 'the stealth guy will autofail'.

Add more 'offensive' skill uses and the problem blossoms.

What I would do is just completely replace 'defensive' skill uses like Perception with class-based bonus similar to BAB or saving throw progressions. A Ranger or Rogue might get Lv+Wis mod, whereas other classes would get Lv/2+Wis mod.



Auto-Anything
Skills in D&D, d20 modern, and PF don't fail on a 1 or auto-succeed on a 20 and that's not something I intend to change for precisely the sorts of problems that this would cause.

Well, that's all I can think to say at this point. Thank you all very much for your responses so far. You've all been very helpful.


What I mean is not nat-1, nat-20 stuff. I mean a situation where someone has a Hide modifier that is 30 points higher than the opponent's Spot modifier or a Bluff that's 60 points higher than the opponent's Sense Motive. That's a consequence of how high the numbers can be driven by optimization in D&D skills

Eldan
2013-11-18, 11:16 AM
Invisibility is one reason why I advocate using two skills for stealth. Because it doesn't cover moving silently. It's also a classic situation: listening for the invisible creature to predict its movement.
Also, a lot of these spells can be disarmed quite a bit by making them give a skill bonus, as you said.
Invisibility is, say, a +10 bonus to hide. Increase it to a higher bonus with the higher level spells, or by caster level. It also allows hide in plain sight.
Knock allows you to open locks as a standard instead of the longer time the skill normally demans and gives a bonus of 5+caster level to your check.
Etc.

No idea how to handle flying, though.

I also don't like the idea of class-level dependent checks. For anything, really. I've hade base attack a skill and I'm seriously considering making the saves and caster level skill checks, too.

BWR
2013-11-18, 02:44 PM
The biggest argument for consolidating skills in d20 is that most classes don't get enough skill points. Splitting skills into more categories but keeping the relatively low ranks of most classes basically means they will be even more specialized and less useful outside of that one narrow cateogry. It means hiring specialists will be more common, which is fine and dandy, but in my experience it will end up causing a lot more frustration amongst players. If you choose to increase the number of skills and increase ranks granted, you are just adding more bookkeeping for basically the same issue.

Eldan
2013-11-18, 03:40 PM
The biggest argument for consolidating skills in d20 is that most classes don't get enough skill points. Splitting skills into more categories but keeping the relatively low ranks of most classes basically means they will be even more specialized and less useful outside of that one narrow cateogry. It means hiring specialists will be more common, which is fine and dandy, but in my experience it will end up causing a lot more frustration amongst players. If you choose to increase the number of skills and increase ranks granted, you are just adding more bookkeeping for basically the same issue.

It may be more bookkeeping, but I like having a lot of different skills doing different things.

NichG
2013-11-18, 04:27 PM
If you can honestly come up with ways that each skill is mechanically distinctive and lets you do distinct and interestingly-different things, thats fine. If you decide to split one common task into four different pieces for sake of realism or granularity or some abstract ideal, I find that more questionable. For me its hard to argue that any of those things are really worth making the players jump through even more hoops to figure out how to actually be effective at something and introducing even more 'trap' options into the game.

This is especially true if you make things like saving throws and attacks into skills. The more skills you have, the harder it is to make sure they're equally valuable. When you have something as valuable as saving throws or attacks in the mix, then most of those other finely-divided skills are going to basically be worthless compared to dumping all of your skill points into an attack or defense skill that is going to come up not just every session, but multiple times in each round of a fight.

Yitzi
2013-11-18, 05:51 PM
No idea how to handle flying, though.

Do you know what they call flying soldiers on the battlefield? (http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2011-10-02)

Knaight
2013-11-18, 09:04 PM
In the case of D&D, the main issue with skills is that they are a half-baked add-on bolted onto the side of a very class based, very level based system, and they don't work well as a result. Plus, the magic system is designed in such a way as to basically make them obsolete.

As for the breadth of skills, I find fairly broad skills work well - particularly if you are able to specialize, in such a way as to lose another part of the skill. A character from a forested area by some plains and a river might just take an Athletics skill, whereas one who lives in a mountainous desert might take Athletics with a specialty in Climbing and a penalty in Swimming*. It gives you the granularity you need, and keeps the crunch down in doing so.

*Though a bonus in swimming might make sense if they live next to an oasis.

nonsi
2013-11-19, 04:02 AM
Knowledge: totally borked in the core rules. One of hte few good things 4E did was change them, giving a list with DCs for each creature. A dragon with 30 HD is not six times harder to identify than the same dragon's 5HD baby.

How would you make it then ?



Attack bonus. Yup. Base attack is a skill now. You buy points per weapon group, as per the Unearthed Arcana variant in the SRD.

Knowledge: I change the available categories of knowledge based on campaign setting. In Planescape, I usually don't have Knowledge: Planes, but something like "Transitive Planes", "Planes of Law", "Planes of Chaos", "Planes of Good", "Planes of Evil", "Inner Planes" and "The Prime".

How many skill points would you give the core classes to accommodate this change?
Also, if everything amounts to skills (including saves that you mentioned later on), then what place does this leave for classes ?

lesser_minion
2013-11-19, 04:55 AM
Have some stark-raving lunacy on the subject of stealth:

Before you rewrite stealth -- or in fact, any other skill, think about what's actually going on conceptually, and what the player might want to do with these skills. What is a rogue with a good hide skill good at that lets him hide better? What is a rogue with a good move silently skill good at that lets him move quietly? And what sort of really awesome thing can you imagine a master of these skills doing?

In general, moving quietly is quite easy -- the main difficulty is screwing up and making noise. Isn't there another skill in 3e that already covers moving around carefully without fumbling? And should your move silently really be opposed by a listen check? The people who might hear you aren't doing anything to stop you from being quiet, are they? So perhaps this should be a Balance skill check, rolled against passive opposition from the environment. Low DCs for tarmac, moderate DCs for grass, high DCs for undergrowth, situational penalties for hob-nailed boots on hard surfaces, etc. As far as group checks are concerned, there's conceptually little someone who's good at not tripping over things can do to help someone who sucks at it (literal piggy-backing, perhaps, but that would pretty massively hose the co-ordinated guy).

Conceptually, hiding is extremely different to moving silently -- the only thing they have in common is the fact that they can be used in service to the same ultimate end.

The main thing you have to worry about when hiding is knowing where your potential observers are. And the trick to preventing someone from hiding is not having eyesight that's 'better' in some abstract fashion, it's knowing where to position yourself. In a hide-and-seek scenario, one character will be trying to stay one step ahead of his opponent: the other will be trying to mask his approach so that his opponent can't reliably do that.

Ultimately, the skill needed to hide and the skill needed to catch someone hiding should be the same skill as far as the rules are concerned. Competent guards will hide some of their number, and competent thieves will be positioning observers. Perhaps it could be the 'reconnoitre' or 'reconnaissance' skill?

Also, since stealth is really a sort of tactical duel, it doesn't make sense for individual pawns to have to make their own hide checks -- the skills of the tactician who guides them are, for the most part, more important.

The real mark of a master of stealth is being the guy who pulls off the most daring and difficult raids. Unfortunately, there isn't really any single obstacle you can hold up and say "if you can beat this reliably, then you are officially the dog's bollocks when it comes to stealthing".

Eldan
2013-11-19, 05:48 AM
How would you make it then ?


How many skill points would you give the core classes to accommodate this change?
Also, if everything amounts to skills (including saves that you mentioned later on), then what place does this leave for classes ?

Classes determine what levels you get abilities at. Really, things which are just numbers that go up have little place in classes and should be tied to character level. Until recently, I used fractional saves and BAB, too.

Also, as I mentioned, I haven't done saves as skills yet, just considered it. But I'm giving everyone at least 6+ skills. Except wizards, they get 4+.

Monsters can really only sensibly be handled by writing up a little table for each monster. I first saw it with 4E's infamous Bear Lore. Still. Just something like:

DC 10: this is a dragon, they are physically and magically powerful intelligent predators that fly.
DC 15: this is a red dragon, it breathes fire and is immune to it.
DC 20: specific abilities
DC 25: more specific abilities
Etc.

Neoxenok
2013-11-23, 01:34 AM
Whew! It's been a busy week.
I'll try to answer everyone's inquiries.


In my current (non-D&D) campaign, there's a Stealth 'waza', sort of a skill trick equivalent, that allows someone with high enough Stealth (the equivalent of 10 ranks) to basically make a check to cover a group. You could also just make it so that someone can take a -5 or -10 to their Stealth check to be able to apply their check to other group members whose checks were lower, for example - that covers it being harder to move in stealth as a group while still making it possible.
Justin Alexander came up with something similar. I think I might use a modified version of both - not only to cover stealth, but also a wide range of skills.

Something like using the primary skillmonkey's roll -2 per additional person beneath that monkey's skill level (those others with the skill can aid other to help mitigate those bonuses) up to -30 and up to some other, larger limit. This would also include penalties anyone in the group with significant penalties (for something like stealth, this would be size penalties, armor check penalties, and so on).


Personally I would remove all spells and effects that give numerical bonuses to skills, and just leave it be with the spells that have 'obvious' implications to making skills moot like Invisibility and Fly. The plus side with this is that if there are high-end skill-based abilities (like the epic skill check results) that are distinct from the core function of the skill, those spells won't let you hit those epic DCs, whereas investing in the skill will.
I think I need to talk a bit about the changes I want to also make to magic and magic items. As I said in my other thread (linked at the top), I can't reallhy address any fix in 3.5e without addressing spells and magic items - so I'll digress a bit and talk about what my current ideas are in regard to fixing magic:

First and foremost, magic items that grant bonuses to skills are going to be much more expensive and cap out at +10 - the highest bonus a magic item can achieve. That won't technically be true because of items that grant bonuses to skill indirectly, it'll go a long way to fixing the problem of people saying "well custom item +30 or higher" as a way for casters to trump non-casters. I'll list out what all I think will end up adding to skills:

0 - 20 Skill Ranks +0 or +3 (Class Skill) +2 Racial +2 (+2/+2 feat) +10 (Skill Focus) +10 Competence -5 ~ +15 Ability Score +5 Morale (bardic music and some spells)

Even in epic levels, skill ranks will never surpass 20, as I'll be limiting hit die advancement as part of my fixes to epic levels.
Skill Focus will add +3 or half the number of ranks you possess in the skill

So +24 to +67 is about the range that skills will have, but let's say +70 is the absolute maximum just to round it up to a nice, even number.
Note that the minimum bonus has all the magic modifiers and skill focus' full +10 but no ranks, trained bonuses or a high ability score and even with a +16 boost from a magically enhanced ability score, it still falls far short of what the +70 can do.

But I do also want to make a point about skills, spells, and such - I honestly don't mind some "cross contamination" of allowing spells to do things that skills do. Skills don't need a complete monopoly on what they do in order to be useful or effective regardless of whether we're talking about jump vs. fly or stealth vs. invisibility or whatnot. I don't think jump was included in the game to compete with fly and even if it were, fly is still a limited time and limited availability power.

Racial flight could easily render jump unnecessary for that one character, but who cares? Jump is there as a skill for people that need or want it. I don't feel the need to nerf flight or take flight away just because Jump exists. I'm not just talking about the 3rd level spell or the aasimar feat or whatever, but in general. Not everyone can fly and jump isn't always useless because flight exists.

What I do think needs to happen is that - and many of you have already pointed this out - give the magical options a more "pros and cons" sort of situation where it can be useful and powerful but not necessarily always the best option.

I also have no problems giving more "epic" functions to skills and making things like the jump skill more ... quadratic in its advancements so that even as the fly spell and polymorphing become more normalized, that their mundane counterparts can become more... reality bending/shattering. For example, I like the idea of escape artist being able to slip through walls, then force walls, then the walls of reality itself, where someone with that +70 whatever bonus can really make use of it considering how godly that much ability in that skill really is.

I do agree with the sentiment that invisibility shouldn't always absolutely trump stealth so I do think that modifications do need to be made.


Consider, would you allow a +20 sword in your game? Part of making skills relevant is to treat them on the same footing as other things like saves and attack rolls, which means reducing how easy it is to pump them super-high.
Right. Skills is just one of the starting points I'm making in my overall changes to the system, but I have plenty of ideas for virtually ever other part of the game, particularly spells and magic items and I'm making use of a lot of different places where flaws and such are discussed so I can make surgical changes to the game to make improvements while taking away as little as possible.

I really hate changes to magic that involves gutting the game out from the core when it's wholly unnecessary. A lot of games made by people here and elsewhere changed the game to be almost unrecognizable and I want to avoid that fate as much as I can. I want to subtract as little and add as much as I can while also attempting to fix the problems that I and others have diagnosed with 3.5e.


Its a player psychology thing. Players take awhile to be comfortable saying 'I take 10' or 'I take 20' and knowing when one or the other is safe to do. DMs often resist 'I take 20' by adding contrived failure consequences because they feel that there should be some consequence for failing the roll or the PC will just keep rolling. Another problem can be that they don't realize that they should be designing DCs based on taking 20 in some cases, versus based on taking 10 in other cases.
A few things here:
First, outside of offering better GM'ing advice for DMs/GMs/Storytellers/whatever, I'm not sure that there's much more the rules can do other than providing the options.

Second, I'm not sure how you perceive this problem with not designing the DCs to accommodate taking 10 or 20. The DCs were designed with the range of the d20 in mind and taking 20 just saves time given that there are no consequences for failure. If the DCs had to designed with the idea that the player MUST take 20 to succeed, then it just unnecessarily and illogically inflates the DCs of skill checks for no purpose or benefit except to make it more likely that the PCs will fail.


So basically I'm thinking it would be better to take the 'false choice' of not taking 20 away in situations where its not actually interesting to roll things out.
Perhaps, but this doesn't really seem like a rules issue.


The problem is something like this:
The thing about having 23 ranks in stealth (plus the usual modifiers that a character would likely have for stealth at that level, particularly the rogue and ranger classes) is that such a character would be about one step below beings that would otherwise be worshipped as gods if they weren't actual demigods.

High level characters are POWERFUL and should be treated as such. I have to disagree that skills should be made to be able to be contested no matter how much more skilled the "offensive" character actually is.

What I'm getting at is that I don't think that I'm giving anything to a player that (even when not considering that level of specialization) if he's 20 ranks plus lots of bonuses of stealth good, then he's 5 ranks better plus lots of pluses better than the guy that's just 15 ranks of perception and some bonuses.

He *should* be good and he should be able to use his talents effectively. I don't think players need to have to struggle at all times in the thing they specialize in.

This isn't to say that I think they should be pandered to or that they should never be challenged in their specialty skills and abilities, but if a player's character is among the greatest infiltrators in the world and has the skill bonuses to show it, then I think that giving every enemy a "fair shot" at detecting an expert infiltrator (or rather, the considerably more skilled and talented) is ... well... there's an example somewhere about DMs giving every enemy fire resistance as soon as a player learns fireball just because he's burninating people with it and how they shouldn't do it precisely for this reason.


What I mean is not nat-1, nat-20 stuff. I mean a situation where someone has a Hide modifier that is 30 points higher than the opponent's Spot modifier or a Bluff that's 60 points higher than the opponent's Sense Motive. That's a consequence of how high the numbers can be driven by optimization in D&D skills

I see. Well, I'm definitively in favor of deflating any number of easily over-inflated skills but that's not going to prevent someone that grossly outclasses another in one skill, another, both, neither, or some quantum superposition of all four from just dominating that person in that particular area but I just don't believe in a skill system that says that the retired and aching (though experienced) basketball coach has any chance of getting shots in on Michael Jordon in his prime because the skill system that governs their reality needed to give the coach a level-based bonus that replaces being several points in skills short of Jordon's and all the other shortcomings based on age and considerably less talent.

If I'm wrong, though, tell me why. I just don't get this.

EDIT:
In regards to identifying monsters, I definitely agree about making the DCs make more sense. I do think that late 3.5e and 4th went in a good direction with that in that there were graduated and set DCs for each creature, regardless of advanced HD or age categories and things of that nature or that you can identify a templated creature but not the not-templated creature - such as a zombie human (because you have knowledge religion but not knowledge local) same goes with were-creatures and other templates.

My only issue here is that it needs to be simpler than what 4e and late 3.5e did - I really hated all the space that was wasted to determine the difference between a DC 25 and DC 28 knowledge check in monster lore or whatever and I don't like the fact that you would have to put an entry for everything for this reason.

I'm sure there's a middle ground somewhere...

NichG
2013-11-23, 01:29 PM
I think I need to talk a bit about the changes I want to also make to magic and magic items. As I said in my other thread (linked at the top), I can't reallhy address any fix in 3.5e without addressing spells and magic items - so I'll digress a bit and talk about what my current ideas are in regard to fixing magic:

First and foremost, magic items that grant bonuses to skills are going to be much more expensive and cap out at +10 - the highest bonus a magic item can achieve. That won't technically be true because of items that grant bonuses to skill indirectly, it'll go a long way to fixing the problem of people saying "well custom item +30 or higher" as a way for casters to trump non-casters. I'll list out what all I think will end up adding to skills:

0 - 20 Skill Ranks +0 or +3 (Class Skill) +2 Racial +2 (+2/+2 feat) +10 (Skill Focus) +10 Competence -5 ~ +15 Ability Score +5 Morale (bardic music and some spells)

Even in epic levels, skill ranks will never surpass 20, as I'll be limiting hit die advancement as part of my fixes to epic levels.
Skill Focus will add +3 or half the number of ranks you possess in the skill

So +24 to +67 is about the range that skills will have, but let's say +70 is the absolute maximum just to round it up to a nice, even number.
Note that the minimum bonus has all the magic modifiers and skill focus' full +10 but no ranks, trained bonuses or a high ability score and even with a +16 boost from a magically enhanced ability score, it still falls far short of what the +70 can do.


Personally I feel that it's a problem that the '+24' from magic is bigger than the total investment in the skill over a character's career. And its more when you include morale bonuses from spells and the like.

Let me put it this way - what is the actual gain for having magic that pumps numerical skill checks? For something like Fly, its method of operation is by creating a new form of movement that is thematic of magic. What does 'Glibness' or 'Jump' or even worse, Guidance of the Avatar, add to the game thematically that makes it so important to retain?

Aside from 'well they're already in the system', I don't really see why you wouldn't just remove them all.



But I do also want to make a point about skills, spells, and such - I honestly don't mind some "cross contamination" of allowing spells to do things that skills do. Skills don't need a complete monopoly on what they do in order to be useful or effective regardless of whether we're talking about jump vs. fly or stealth vs. invisibility or whatnot. I don't think jump was included in the game to compete with fly and even if it were, fly is still a limited time and limited availability power.

Racial flight could easily render jump unnecessary for that one character, but who cares? Jump is there as a skill for people that need or want it. I don't feel the need to nerf flight or take flight away just because Jump exists. I'm not just talking about the 3rd level spell or the aasimar feat or whatever, but in general. Not everyone can fly and jump isn't always useless because flight exists.


The real answer to this I think is to roll Jump into another skill, maybe make it part of Tumble.

The problem is basically when you have two ways to achieve the same thing in practice, where one is very expensive (permanent investment of 20 levels of skill points) while the other is very cheap (get a scroll of X and learn the spell and prepare it when you need it, for example) or is just so much better at the same cost (racial flight versus investing in jump). That basically renders one of the paths into a 'trap' option - no one who knows what they're doing will take it, because there are much better ways to do it.

Worse, people who do take it may find that they think their niche is protected by virtue of having put so many resources into specializing, just to find that another player comes by and makes the niche irrelevant at very low cost. For example, in your system someone putting max ranks and Skill Focus and a good portion of their WBL into getting a really good Jump score... is still trivialized by the guy with racial flight.

I agree that this is inevitable for some skills due to thematic constraints (we want magic to let people fly or turn invisible) - so the best things to do to resolve that are:

1. Give the endangered skills something that magic can't duplicate (have Jump give you attack bonuses when you use it instead of flight, for example)
2. Remove the skill and put its function into another skill that has functions of its own.

So this works for specific magics like flight - we just accept that moving through the air is better done via magic than muscle and move on. 'General' magics like Guidance of the Avatar or Morale bonus spells or Competence bonus items though basically can do any skill the creator wants, so they simultaneously threaten the validity of every skill. That's something I have a problem with in the system.

Again, what I'd suggest for items is, make the items focus on the thematic elements and actually disallow generic '+X competence bonus' items entirely. If you want an item that helps you hide, it just turns you invisible, it doesn't give you a +10 on Hide checks. If you want an item that helps you make stuff at the forge, it lets you reroll failed Craft checks or not consume materials when you fail or reduces the time it takes by a factor of 100, but it doesn't give you +10 to Craft checks.

Basically, make skill rank investment do one thing, and make sure magic does a different - but still awesome - thing.



I also have no problems giving more "epic" functions to skills and making things like the jump skill more ... quadratic in its advancements so that even as the fly spell and polymorphing become more normalized, that their mundane counterparts can become more... reality bending/shattering. For example, I like the idea of escape artist being able to slip through walls, then force walls, then the walls of reality itself, where someone with that +70 whatever bonus can really make use of it considering how godly that much ability in that skill really is.


Yeah, again, just try to make sure that most of that +70 isn't coming from stuff that is restricted to the magic users or you're just saying 'you can bend reality with magic this way or that way'



A few things here:
First, outside of offering better GM'ing advice for DMs/GMs/Storytellers/whatever, I'm not sure that there's much more the rules can do other than providing the options.

Second, I'm not sure how you perceive this problem with not designing the DCs to accommodate taking 10 or 20. The DCs were designed with the range of the d20 in mind and taking 20 just saves time given that there are no consequences for failure. If the DCs had to designed with the idea that the player MUST take 20 to succeed, then it just unnecessarily and illogically inflates the DCs of skill checks for no purpose or benefit except to make it more likely that the PCs will fail.


Basically, the DM/adventure designer has to keep in mind where there's no real penalty for failure. For example, lets take Search DCs for traps.

If I'm running Tomb of Horrors, there are no wandering encounters or denizens that will attack the party. They could, theoretically, take 20 in searching every 10ft square of the dungeon. Many DMs will protest - 'That would take forever!'. But in-character that cost is tiny compared to getting slaughtered by traps, and out-of-character it doesn't take any longer than rolling once.

So for those traps, either the searcher has enough ranks/modifiers that they find the traps, or they do not. There is no in-between. If you designed the traps to make it possible to failure and succeed on a d20 roll for your party's best searcher, every trap will be found by the searcher. If you designed the traps so that statistically a 'good searcher' might be built to find half of them and miss half of them, and the party decides to not take 20, then they will trigger most or all of the traps.

Solutions to this might be:

- You can only roll once for a given area, there is no take-20 on Searching but you can choose to take 10 (which becomes a poor choice in this case).
- Passive Perception, like in 4ed, in addition to a tabulated set of ranges of Search modifiers that you could expect someone to have at various levels and an underlying system designed to keep that variance under a +/- 10 range so that there is some uncertainty.
- Tiered levels of success on trapfinding. DC = Know there's a trap, DC+5 = Know the consequences, DC+10 = Know the trigger, DC+15 = Know the bypass.

So that's an example of how the Take-10/Take-20 thing can influence system design considerations. If its the player's option to take 10 or take 20, then that increases the risk that 'arbitrary' choices based on preconceptions, like the decision to not bother taking 20, can drastically influence the results.



Perhaps, but this doesn't really seem like a rules issue.


If the system says 'its just passive Search, you always just use your Search modifier and the DM compares against the trap DC' then it removes that spurious source of variance. That's why its a rules issue, because its something that the rules can act to correct for or moderate.



The thing about having 23 ranks in stealth (plus the usual modifiers that a character would likely have for stealth at that level, particularly the rogue and ranger classes) is that such a character would be about one step below beings that would otherwise be worshipped as gods if they weren't actual demigods.

High level characters are POWERFUL and should be treated as such. I have to disagree that skills should be made to be able to be contested no matter how much more skilled the "offensive" character actually is.

What I'm getting at is that I don't think that I'm giving anything to a player that (even when not considering that level of specialization) if he's 20 ranks plus lots of bonuses of stealth good, then he's 5 ranks better plus lots of pluses better than the guy that's just 15 ranks of perception and some bonuses.

He *should* be good and he should be able to use his talents effectively. I don't think players need to have to struggle at all times in the thing they specialize in.

...

If I'm wrong, though, tell me why. I just don't get this.


Its because I'm not talking about Michael Jordan versus the retired coach. I'm talking about Michael Jordan versus Thor. Thor will not have any ranks in Profession(Basketball Player), but being Thor, he should be able to give Michael Jordan an interesting game at least.

I'm not saying the epic rogue should fail to sneak past the Lv2 guards. I'm saying that the epic rogue should not automatically be able to make every Hide check against the epic warrior. Because then, every fight becomes 'I hide in plain sight and snipe at the warrior, re-hiding each time, until he dies'. Similarly, if the epic warrior has a similar warrior-like ability - something like Devastating Crit and the crit range to always crit at least once during their attack sequence, or even just an ubercharger build - then when they go first they liquefy the rogue who hasn't had a chance to Hide yet.

If high level characters have 'unassailable offences' then any fight between high level characters becomes a battle of who goes first.

One way to design around this is to limit how powerful a 'success' can be, so that even if you can guarantee success against an equal-level opponent in your focus, that guaranteed success doesn't actually translate to an all-out victory.

If you manage to Tumble past the AoO of the epic warrior, that doesn't end the overall contest in a single skill check. If you can Hide in Plain Sight and snipe undetectably from a mile away, that basically ends the contest in a single skill check.

The idea is to make it so that contests between equals in power-scale are still contests, not to make it so that deity versus commoner is a contest.

Neoxenok
2013-11-24, 12:15 AM
Personally I feel that it's a problem that the '+24' from magic is bigger than the total investment in the skill over a character's career. And its more when you include morale bonuses from spells and the like.
+24 is not bigger than +70.
+70 *is* with the investments. That was the point. A mage that's *just* doing the magic enhancements isn't going to trump the guy that's putting the effort.

The problem that came from when the magic boosts (ONLY available to the caster) gave such massive bonuses - glibness is a great example of this - that it overwhelms any benefit gained from all over investments combined. Glibness as a spell can single handedly double (or at least boost by 1/3rd) all of the other bonuses to bluff to one character that bothered to invest.


Let me put it this way - what is the actual gain for having magic that pumps numerical skill checks? For something like Fly, its method of operation is by creating a new form of movement that is thematic of magic. What does 'Glibness' or 'Jump' or even worse, Guidance of the Avatar, add to the game thematically that makes it so important to retain?
Same as having masterwork thieves' tools. There is no gain in loosing them either. Just loosing useful spells and magic for no abject purpose.


The real answer to this I think is to roll Jump into another skill, maybe make it part of Tumble.
I've been using Pathfinder's SRD skills as a basis or starting point for my changes, so "Jump" is a part of the acrobatics skill, which includes balance and tumble as well.


Again, what I'd suggest for items is, make the items focus on the thematic elements and actually disallow generic '+X competence bonus' items entirely. If you want an item that helps you hide, it just turns you invisible, it doesn't give you a +10 on Hide checks. If you want an item that helps you make stuff at the forge, it lets you reroll failed Craft checks or not consume materials when you fail or reduces the time it takes by a factor of 100, but it doesn't give you +10 to Craft checks.

Basically, make skill rank investment do one thing, and make sure magic does a different - but still awesome - thing.
Why not? The problem wasn't that these bonuses existed, it's that they could give themselves ridiculously huge bonuses at a very cheap cost or the binary benefits that spells like knock give vs. disable device/open lock.
If I just nerf the number and sizes of the bonuses, make those bonuses more expensive, and change the binary skill spells to something that isn't abjectly superior to the skill it's replicating, then what more is there to do? It doesn't really make much sense to me to eliminate skill bonuses from magic completely. Things like armor of stealth isn't exactly making skills useless - it's targeting the right thing for the wrong reason.


Yeah, again, just try to make sure that most of that +70 isn't coming from stuff that is restricted to the magic users or you're just saying 'you can bend reality with magic this way or that way'
Right, well, the +whatever and binary problems with magic is an issue more with magic than with skills anyway.
I have little doubt that 90% of the effort I'll be putting into this project will come when I get to fixing spells, feats, and magic items.


Basically, the DM/adventure designer has to keep in mind where there's no real penalty for failure. For example, lets take Search DCs for traps.
I'm going to have to stop you right there because there's a huge flaw in your argument already.

"Taking 20" isn't "you get a twenty."
What taking 20 is is a rule that basically says that you took the time to roll until you got the one you needed to succeed. Because the PC just kept trying until he succeeded. It's a rule that lets you go straight to the success without having to sit down and roll until you actually succeed, but the result is the same as if he rolled a 1 or a 20 and everywhere in between.

That's why you can't take 20 on a climb check where if rolling a 1 means you plummet to your death. All that taking 20 does is cut time and a bunch of useless rolls.

You're thinking of "taking 10" which does do this unless the PC is distracted or threatened (also preventing auto-bypassing traps, as "you'll die if you fail" counts as a distraction/threat or basically anything else a DM could think would qualify.


Its because I'm not talking about Michael Jordan versus the retired coach. I'm talking about Michael Jordan versus Thor. Thor will not have any ranks in Profession(Basketball Player), but being Thor, he should be able to give Michael Jordan an interesting game at least.
"interesting" doesn't mean he'd have any actual chance at winning. I'm sure his godly strength, speed, and such would make him talented, but...

... are we really discussing a basketball game between Thor, the Norse god, and Michael Jordon? This is the best thread ever.

... anyway, the point is that is one guy has so much skill and ability in that skill that he's only one step below the god that specializes in that skill or is at least the greatest mortal example of that specialty, then why should this be possible? Why not give that stealthy character with the +50 bonus the ability to practically moonwalk his way through the prison complex instead of making sure that all the guards have a comparable spot... perception... ish thing?

As a DM, you have to let them have their cake sometimes. Thor might be a god, but he doesn't get godly talent for everything in the world just because he happens to be absurdly powerful.

That's Superman's shtick anyway.


I'm not saying the epic rogue should fail to sneak past the Lv2 guards. I'm saying that the epic rogue should not automatically be able to make every Hide check against the epic warrior. Because then, every fight becomes 'I hide in plain sight and snipe at the warrior, re-hiding each time, until he dies'. Similarly, if the epic warrior has a similar warrior-like ability - something like Devastating Crit and the crit range to always crit at least once during their attack sequence, or even just an ubercharger build - then when they go first they liquefy the rogue who hasn't had a chance to Hide yet.

If high level characters have 'unassailable offences' then any fight between high level characters becomes a battle of who goes first.

One way to design around this is to limit how powerful a 'success' can be, so that even if you can guarantee success against an equal-level opponent in your focus, that guaranteed success doesn't actually translate to an all-out victory.

If you manage to Tumble past the AoO of the epic warrior, that doesn't end the overall contest in a single skill check. If you can Hide in Plain Sight and snipe undetectably from a mile away, that basically ends the contest in a single skill check.

The idea is to make it so that contests between equals in power-scale are still contests, not to make it so that deity versus commoner is a contest.
That's a good point and you are right, at least about 3.5e as it is now in regard to high level combat. It's (partly) why the board members here use the term "rocket tag" to describe high level combat. You are right that said shadowdancer or ranger can just hide in plain sight and snipe at the lone warrior.

... but let's be honest here - that's not the entire story. Your example is flawed because it was set up with the shadowdancer having the advantage to begin with and if that's the case, then I have to point again to the fact that if the player specialized to do this, then he should be rewarded for it.

I'm sure you're asking "but what of the borked warrior?"

Well, he didn't have friends (as in teammates that might be able to help him), make sure of smart tactical decisions, or other abilities, tools, magic items, or spells that would help as well (like the deflect arrows feat). This is all especially important at high levels when all of the above are more available. D&D is a tactical game and someone is always going to have the high ground.
THe problems that arise tend to be because they're all mountain and no valley (as in, would be like your example if he were immune to perception entirely and did instant deaths with sniping).

Give the warrior the deflect arrows feat and suddenly the rogue has to close into melee and put himself directly in front of a high level warrior with up-to-date equipment and a damage output that includes all the numbers.

NichG
2013-11-24, 05:08 AM
+24 is not bigger than +70.
+70 *is* with the investments. That was the point. A mage that's *just* doing the magic enhancements isn't going to trump the guy that's putting the effort.


By 'investments' I was specifically referring to skill point investments, e.g. permanent character choices versus interchangeable gear, buffs, and ancillary things like ability scores that buff multiple things.

Basically, I'm arguing that 'where you put your skill points' needs to be meaningful.


Same as having masterwork thieves' tools. There is no gain in loosing them either. Just loosing useful spells and magic for no abject purpose.

The benefit in losing them is that it causes permanent character choices like skill point investment to be more meaningful, compared to the game with those things in. Keeping them on the other hand has no real benefit from a game design point of view and doesn't seem to be required by the thematics the same way flight and polymorph are, so just get rid of them.



Why not? The problem wasn't that these bonuses existed, it's that they could give themselves ridiculously huge bonuses at a very cheap cost or the binary benefits that spells like knock give vs. disable device/open lock.




If I just nerf the number and sizes of the bonuses, make those bonuses more expensive, and change the binary skill spells to something that isn't abjectly superior to the skill it's replicating, then what more is there to do? It doesn't really make much sense to me to eliminate skill bonuses from magic completely. Things like armor of stealth isn't exactly making skills useless - it's targeting the right thing for the wrong reason.


Again I have to ask, what do you actually gain by having the bonuses? Because you have to balance that against what you lose.

What you lose by keeping the bonuses is an opportunity to create deeper niches, where different paths to power actually behave differently. Even if you don't buy my arguments about preserving the meaningfulness of skill points or my suggestion about making skills have the same stature as BAB and Saves, having different paths to power be thematically and mechanically distinct is just a solid win all around - balance aside, it makes the game more interesting.



I'm going to have to stop you right there because there's a huge flaw in your argument already.

"Taking 20" isn't "you get a twenty."
What taking 20 is is a rule that basically says that you took the time to roll until you got the one you needed to succeed. Because the PC just kept trying until he succeeded. It's a rule that lets you go straight to the success without having to sit down and roll until you actually succeed, but the result is the same as if he rolled a 1 or a 20 and everywhere in between.

That's why you can't take 20 on a climb check where if rolling a 1 means you plummet to your death. All that taking 20 does is cut time and a bunch of useless rolls.

You're thinking of "taking 10" which does do this unless the PC is distracted or threatened (also preventing auto-bypassing traps, as "you'll die if you fail" counts as a distraction/threat or basically anything else a DM could think would qualify.


No, I'm talking about taking 20. By the book, Search has no penalty for failure. If you roll a 1/fail the DC of the trap by 20/whatever, it doesn't mean you set it off - it just means you didn't find it that time. I'm less familiar with Pathfinder, so perhaps they changed this, but thats the way it is in 3.5ed.



"interesting" doesn't mean he'd have any actual chance at winning. I'm sure his godly strength, speed, and such would make him talented, but...

... are we really discussing a basketball game between Thor, the Norse god, and Michael Jordon? This is the best thread ever.

... anyway, the point is that is one guy has so much skill and ability in that skill that he's only one step below the god that specializes in that skill or is at least the greatest mortal example of that specialty, then why should this be possible? Why not give that stealthy character with the +50 bonus the ability to practically moonwalk his way through the prison complex instead of making sure that all the guards have a comparable spot... perception... ish thing?

As a DM, you have to let them have their cake sometimes. Thor might be a god, but he doesn't get godly talent for everything in the world just because he happens to be absurdly powerful.


The +50 stealth guy absolutely can walk through the prison. Just like the epic level warrior can turn it into a bloodbath and slay every single guard in a few moments. And the epic level wizard can turn the prison into pudding.

The mistake in your example is, the guards aren't actually epic level. You're still talking about deity versus commoner.

This isn't an issue with 'letting the players get away with things'. Its an issue with 'perfect attacks' that have a single counter, and which completely resolve the situation when they apply.

As the number of distinct perfect attacks in the system increases, a given party/character with a finite set of corresponding defenses will have a smaller and smaller chance of being able to actually defend against attack - alternately, more and more of their resources must go towards those corresponding defenses, leading to a go-fish like game where encounters are dominated by a checklist of immunities.

This can be in the form of a source of unhittable save DCs, uber-charger-scale damage, or opposed skill checks that auto-win encounters.



... but let's be honest here - that's not the entire story. Your example is flawed because it was set up with the shadowdancer having the advantage to begin with and if that's the case, then I have to point again to the fact that if the player specialized to do this, then he should be rewarded for it.

I'm sure you're asking "but what of the borked warrior?"

Well, he didn't have friends (as in teammates that might be able to help him), make sure of smart tactical decisions, or other abilities, tools, magic items, or spells that would help as well (like the deflect arrows feat). This is all especially important at high levels when all of the above are more available. D&D is a tactical game and someone is always going to have the high ground.
THe problems that arise tend to be because they're all mountain and no valley (as in, would be like your example if he were immune to perception entirely and did instant deaths with sniping).


I would argue that when the game has become about cross-checking immunities, thats a failure of the game mechanics; you've fallen out of the sweet spot where the game mechanics are able to assess probabilities.

It also encourages an arms-race with the DM. If the party has an uber-stealth guy, at high levels the DM either puts someone who can counter the stealth guy into every encounter or there is no encounter. If a party has an uber-charger that can kill anything with one hit, the DM can no longer run fights that have lynchpin opponents (e.g. leaders where the followers scatter when the leader is killed) without those fights being over in one round, or at least without somehow otherwise neutralizing the player's schtick ahead of time.

It's better for the game if no schtick is an auto-win, because that actually gives the DM more leeway to let it work well, to have enemies who are weak to it, etc. For example, if you have a schtick with a 10% fail rate then maybe an enemy has something that bumps it up to 20%, or maybe another enemy is more easily caught with it, and that's 5%.

However, as you get to higher levels, things like opposed skill checks have a variance that drops below the mean. That means that its hard to do little tweaks like that. Instead, it's going to look more like 0% failure rate, 0% failure rate, 100% failure rate, etc. If the failure rate had been 10%, then there was still some reason to check - namely, the user of the schtick will generally succeed, but they can't be completely unconcerned about failure (e.g. the difference between someone with insane AC soloing an army in a system where nat 20s auto-hit versus a system where they do not). If its 0%, then you have no reason to run that encounter.

Which means that from the PCs point of view, its possible that every encounter that you do bother to run will appear to have a 100% failure rate of their schtick! That's basically the exact opposite of the effect you seem to want (powerful PCs being highly competent at their focus).



Give the warrior the deflect arrows feat and suddenly the rogue has to close into melee and put himself directly in front of a high level warrior with up-to-date equipment and a damage output that includes all the numbers.

See my above thing about the asymmetry between attack and defense. 'But the warrior could make build choices to defend against this particular trick' isn't a valid argument, because there are always more tricks you need to defend against than you have build options available. Its a game of rock-paper-scissors-duck-dolphin-dynamite-piranha-gun-lizard-library where any choice that doesn't win loses instead of ties.

jedipotter
2013-11-24, 07:06 AM
The biggest argument for consolidating skills in d20 is that most classes don't get enough skill points.

I think the opposite. The game needs less skill points, and more so, skill point boosters. By about 5th level the system starts to break down as characters can just automatically do things.

And it brings up the endless problem: You need to scale the whole world against the characters skills. So the door has to have a phased lock of confusion, just so the character has ''only'' a 50% of opening it. And sure some players think it is fun to just auto skills, but that just makes no sense. What is the point of playing if you can't fail? So the DM has to make things at least a slight challenge to keep the game fun, but has to be careful that the players don't get challenged too much as they will complain.

Yitzi
2013-11-24, 07:21 AM
However, as you get to higher levels, things like opposed skill checks have a variance that drops below the mean.

I think you've identified the real problem. As the variance decreases compared to the mean (which is pretty much unavoidable when more levels=more dice rolled and added), you get more to "autosuccess or autofail", which makes for poor play.


See my above thing about the asymmetry between attack and defense. 'But the warrior could make build choices to defend against this particular trick' isn't a valid argument, because there are always more tricks you need to defend against than you have build options available. Its a game of rock-paper-scissors-duck-dolphin-dynamite-piranha-gun-lizard-library where any choice that doesn't win loses instead of ties.

You could always just give more "defense slots"...it's worth noting, though, that this is one of the ways in which giving more options to everyone will still imbalance the game if not compensated for, which is why a game that keeps adding splatbooks is so hard to balance (impossible if you want it to be balanced even for people not using the splatbooks).

Eldan
2013-11-24, 07:29 AM
I'm not supposed to large boosts from magic, though. I just prefer if they are specific and very short term. The spell "Jump" is a good example. +30 boost to the next jump check, more or less. That works quite well.

NichG
2013-11-24, 02:01 PM
I wonder if its possible to just remove opposed skill checks from the system entirely (as well as any direct comparison of investment in skill X with investment in skill Y)? Auto-success against static underlying DCs to do certain tasks is less of a problem if those tasks aren't 'the challenge' but are rather distinct actions that you can take towards resolving the challenge (e.g. the difference between being able to auto-hit with an attack and auto-kill with an attack).

Another way to think of the reasoning behind it is, D&D combat is interesting because characters don't have a single number that makes or breaks their contribution to a fight. If you could just compare the party's ECL with the enemy's CR, roll 1d20, and say 'you win' or 'you lose', combat would be a lot less interesting. Instead, you have tactics because the participants each have actions that can move the fight towards its conclusion but generally do not resolve the fight in one go.

I have no clue what things like Stealth would look like in such a system however. I guess it would be something like, your Stealth modifier determines how many rounds of 'hidden-ness' you have against a given set of opponents until you're revealed for the duration of the fight/scene.

E.g. the rogue makes a Stealth check at most once/scene. Every 5 points of the DC he hits above 10 is a round of concealment in the direct presence of enemies. If he takes an action to draw some attention to himself, like sniping from the shadows, this burns an extra round. If he takes an action that would draw major attention, like walking up and stabbing someone in an open area, that breaks Stealth unless he has some ability like HiPS.

Enemies that have reason to suspect a hidden opponent (e.g. they got sniped) can spend their full round looking - a flat DC 20 Perception check determines the quadrant the attack came from; a DC 30 Perception check determines the square the attack originated from (which may not be the current location of the hidden person). If they suspect a followup attack they can instead spend their full round being 'on watch' which knocks off an extra round of concealment for every character 'on watch' when the hidden character makes a visible attack or action (opens a door, etc) - this requires some knowledge of there being an attack so they 'watch' in the right direction; characters can't be 'on watch' as a default state.

So you never directly compare the rogue's Stealth check to an enemy's Spot check. Instead, the epitome of rogue-dom gets ~ 12 rounds of being hidden in view of the enemy before being discovered, 6 shots from the shadows against a dumb enemy, and maybe 2 shots from the shadows against a group of enemies that is basically willing to burn all their actions to uncover the hidden attacker.

Neoxenok
2013-12-14, 08:29 AM
Hello everyone! I had to wait so long that it's practically thread necromancy that I'm even posting right now, but to say I've been busy would be a gross understatement. I'll try to touch on the important topics:

Removing Opposed Skill Checks:
I sort of did something like this as a DM, but it involved just turning the "opposed roll" into a flat DC that the PCs would roll against like any other. I did it to make the game flow smoothly and eliminate a lot of the suspicious rolls behind my screen, among other issues. It's a solution I still very much like and use to this day (not that I'm running a game right now, unfortunately.)

This isn't done with every opposed roll, but rather, like taking 10, something I choose to do ad hoc rather than a rule I always follow.

Your solution I think runs into the same problem you outlined earlier as to how a stealthy rogue against a not-very-perceptive opponent can just go in and out of stealth and outmaneuver the poor sod without much of a counteroffensive. In addition, this sounds like it requires significantly more complexity than a simple opposed roll, which for some skills may cause problems either due to being impotent because of over-zealous balancing or overpowered because of the "can't counter" nature of it, investment or no.

Either way, it doesn't sound like much of an improvement over the current system.

High Levels and Auto-Win/Lose
There are certain aspects to this that are unavoidable and this isn't just true with D&D's skill point system, it's the nature of any gaming system where investing in something always trumps not investing in something and this goes to the godlike being/epic level guy without spot/perception vs. stealth-focused mortal of equal or higher level.

My argument is that "godlike being" does not and should not have a good chance of spotting the expert stealth guy despite having no perceptive skill. Please note that I'm referring to "godlike being" in the sense of any high CR creature or being versus another stealth-focused being of equal or higher level as opposed to an actual god, which would be a different case under certain circumstances.

In the prison of uberguards and the perfect assassin/infiltrator, spot/hide and perception/stealth aren't the only counters. There's also different modes of senses - scent, blindsight, blindsense, and any number of feats and abilities that allow warriors to more easily combat hidden and invisible opponents in addition to actual trained spotters and guard dogs (or higher level equivelents.) Remember - high level games are contests between godlike beings. They're at the point to where they're regularly working with powerful outsiders, dragons, and other beings with unique and unusual abilities, as well as virtually unlimited resources. Combatting stealth and magic and all that is very rarely a binary between two skills or abilities.

In fact, I'd love to identify any such binaries in the game specifically so I can eliminate them. Hell, a prepared prison where they're attempting to protect an inmate from an assassin's wrath (perhaps this is a breaking bad situation where some outside mob boss wants a few prisoners dead but the warden finds out in time to prepare defenses), so que a few creative illusions, body doubles, simulacra, or simply a booby-trapped room set to trigger on the assassination attempt can all cause a na´ve assassin to fail without ever actually having to make an opposed spot roll.

My changes to how bonuses are determined go a long way to this end. It's not perfect, but it's miles better than what WotC allowed and certainly succeeds at allowing characters with ranks supersede those without.

It might even be a good idea to fix a lot of the magical bonuses from spells as per my description to have larger bonuses (perhaps up to +5 at max for those with zero ranks or +1 per two ranks, whichever is higher or somesuch) to further add to this, but it would only subtract 5 from my "no investment except spells" example, which is already far under what a full investment character can do.

The Question
what do you actually gain by having the bonuses? Because you have to balance that against what you lose.

I would gain a better balanced game where "I cast knock" is no longer automatically better than any disable device/open lock skill roll a rogue can manage - expenditure of resources or not. All it can do is enhance someone's chances of picking that lock, which won't always be better than an expert lockpicker.

This way, I'm balancing the game better without stripping out perfectly viable options and useful tools. I'm simply removing the auto-win buttons in the game - which is the game's principle problem.

It's a surgical fix rather than a nuclear one.

Taking 20 While Searching for Traps:
In general, searching has no penalty for failure, yes, but traps ARE the penalty for failure. Specifically searching for traps isn't a general search function - it's a specific use with a specific reward for success and penalty for failure. On a successful search check, you find the trap. On a failed search check, you either don't it or set it off either in the search or the false belief that there are no traps in that location and attempt to pass it later.

Both of those things are recognized chances for failure and you thus cannot take 20 and either auto-win or auto-loose in your attempt to find all traps everywhere.

NichG
2013-12-14, 05:45 PM
Removing Opposed Skill Checks:

...

Your solution I think runs into the same problem you outlined earlier as to how a stealthy rogue against a not-very-perceptive opponent can just go in and out of stealth and outmaneuver the poor sod without much of a counteroffensive. In addition, this sounds like it requires significantly more complexity than a simple opposed roll, which for some skills may cause problems either due to being impotent because of over-zealous balancing or overpowered because of the "can't counter" nature of it, investment or no.

Either way, it doesn't sound like much of an improvement over the current system.


The difference is that the rogue can't simply go in and out of stealth forever against the poor sod. That's not 12 rounds per person/per going in and out of stealth, thats 12 rounds for a given 'set of opponents'.

In the example of the prison you use later on, that means that so long as the guards are positioned in such a way that the entire prison is in constant communication, the epic rogue has a bit more than one minute of being hidden to spend for the entire heist. It turns it into a reliable - but finite - resource, rather than being a highly arbitrary (success or failure is basically chosen by the GM's choice of Spot modifier for the guards when the GM builds the scenario) - but infinite - resource.

This also makes stealth far more tactical than a binary success/failure, which makes it more complex but also makes it more interesting. It means that if the rogue needs 3 minutes undiscovered, then they need to first target the prison's communications in order to break up the encounter into smaller chunks that they can stealth past within their time allotment.



High Levels and Auto-Win/Lose
There are certain aspects to this that are unavoidable and this isn't just true with D&D's skill point system, it's the nature of any gaming system where investing in something always trumps not investing in something and this goes to the godlike being/epic level guy without spot/perception vs. stealth-focused mortal of equal or higher level.


This isn't really unavoidable, its just a consequence of a success/failure mindset. If skills don't determine 'how good you do X' but rather 'what can you do?' then this need not be the case.

For example, you wouldn't say that any caster with three 3rd level spells left will always beat any caster with three 2nd level spells left in a fight. It depends on what those spells are in a way that is more complex than just comparing '3' with '2' and deciding one is bigger. Maybe the 3rd level spells have something like Blink, which works well if the 2nd level spells are AoEs but not so much if they're non-attacks. Maybe the 2nd level spells are Scorching Rays or False Life or Invisibility, each of which has qualitatively different consequences for the tactics of the fight.

Can Fireball, Haste, Lightning Bolt beat someone with Invisibility and two castings of Summon Monster II? Maybe yes, maybe no, it depends on the details of the scenario, because each thing serves a distinct tactical purpose.

Having these 'incomparables' is the way to prevent the game from being all about who has the higher number.



My argument is that "godlike being" does not and should not have a good chance of spotting the expert stealth guy despite having no perceptive skill. Please note that I'm referring to "godlike being" in the sense of any high CR creature or being versus another stealth-focused being of equal or higher level as opposed to an actual god, which would be a different case under certain circumstances.

In the prison of uberguards and the perfect assassin/infiltrator, spot/hide and perception/stealth aren't the only counters. There's also different modes of senses - scent, blindsight, blindsense, and any number of feats and abilities that allow warriors to more easily combat hidden and invisible opponents in addition to actual trained spotters and guard dogs (or higher level equivelents.) Remember - high level games are contests between godlike beings. They're at the point to where they're regularly working with powerful outsiders, dragons, and other beings with unique and unusual abilities, as well as virtually unlimited resources. Combatting stealth and magic and all that is very rarely a binary between two skills or abilities.

In fact, I'd love to identify any such binaries in the game specifically so I can eliminate them. Hell, a prepared prison where they're attempting to protect an inmate from an assassin's wrath (perhaps this is a breaking bad situation where some outside mob boss wants a few prisoners dead but the warden finds out in time to prepare defenses), so que a few creative illusions, body doubles, simulacra, or simply a booby-trapped room set to trigger on the assassination attempt can all cause a na´ve assassin to fail without ever actually having to make an opposed spot roll.


I'm kind of saying that skills need to do this, not just spells. Most of your examples of counters to stealth involve spellcasting. You're basically saying 'it doesn't matter if people auto-fail Perception checks because Tier 1 casters can do clever things that will help Stealth not trivialize the scenario'. I'm saying, lets make Perception and Use Rope and Knowledge(History) also be able to do 'clever things that will help Stealth not trivialize the scenario' rather than leaning on the casters so much.

The way to do this is in two parts - make Stealth's effects not based on numerical comparison, but based on concrete, qualitative things.

My argument is, Stealth should not be opposed by Perception at all. Instead, much like the spells you mention, Stealth should 'do something'; Perception should 'do something'; Search should 'do something'. Each of these somethings should be incomparable with eachother, and the interaction between those creates the 'game'. Ideally none of these 'somethings' directly trumps another, but rather each of them modifies the scenario in play.



The Question
what do you actually gain by having the bonuses? Because you have to balance that against what you lose.

I would gain a better balanced game where "I cast knock" is no longer automatically better than any disable device/open lock skill roll a rogue can manage - expenditure of resources or not. All it can do is enhance someone's chances of picking that lock, which won't always be better than an expert lockpicker.


This isn't actually a gain for having bonuses though. This is a gain for in general fixing the system. What do you specifically get for allowing spells to grant bonuses at all, compared to, say, just removing Knock entirely?



This way, I'm balancing the game better without stripping out perfectly viable options and useful tools. I'm simply removing the auto-win buttons in the game - which is the game's principle problem.

It's a surgical fix rather than a nuclear one.


I don't think I understand why you're so set on retaining every spell in some form or other. What is so important about retaining Knock?



Taking 20 While Searching for Traps:
In general, searching has no penalty for failure, yes, but traps ARE the penalty for failure. Specifically searching for traps isn't a general search function - it's a specific use with a specific reward for success and penalty for failure. On a successful search check, you find the trap. On a failed search check, you either don't it or set it off either in the search or the false belief that there are no traps in that location and attempt to pass it later.

Both of those things are recognized chances for failure and you thus cannot take 20 and either auto-win or auto-loose in your attempt to find all traps everywhere.

This isn't true by RAW at least. By RAW, a failed Search check never sets off the trap and retries are not forbidden.

(You could argue that its metagaming to roll search, see that you rolled a 1, then decide to search again. But if you declare 'I take 20' that just means you're saying, prior to any knowledge of the search results, 'I'm going to search this area, look away for a bit, search this area, look away for a bit, ... 100 times because I want to check my work and be thorough'. You're declaring the number of times you're going to search ahead of time, so there's no metagaming involved.)

Neoxenok
2013-12-14, 09:30 PM
The difference is that the rogue can't simply go in and out of stealth forever against the poor sod. That's not 12 rounds per person/per going in and out of stealth, thats 12 rounds for a given 'set of opponents'.

That's a completely arbitrary limitation. It's the kind of thing they tried to do with 4th edition and it's one of the things I absolutely hated when it comes to 1/day or 1/encounter powers that make no in-game sense as to why they couldn't be attempted again except for the fact that the game rules say you can't.

That being said, the wizard, druid, and cleric's most powerful class feature (spells) have a limited number of uses per day, but it's enough to make them the most powerful classes in the game. If it's too powerful to use at will, then it's too powerful to use X times/day.


In the example of the prison you use later on, that means that so long as the guards are positioned in such a way that the entire prison is in constant communication, the epic rogue has a bit more than one minute of being hidden to spend for the entire heist. It turns it into a reliable - but finite - resource, rather than being a highly arbitrary (success or failure is basically chosen by the GM's choice of Spot modifier for the guards when the GM builds the scenario) - but infinite - resource.

This also makes stealth far more tactical than a binary success/failure, which makes it more complex but also makes it more interesting. It means that if the rogue needs 3 minutes undiscovered, then they need to first target the prison's communications in order to break up the encounter into smaller chunks that they can stealth past within their time allotment.
I'm not really sure what this would be adding to the game except additional unnecessary complexity. I don't believe it adds a tactical benefit beyond the fear that your stealth can "run out" ... somehow... and there are plenty of existing in-game tactical uses for the game skills.

Further, your solution is still entirely binary - there are no gradients to success and failure - just an arbitrary limitation on its use... and automatic success... or rather "you win stealth" x times/day and/or against x enemies or for X duration.

My entire point here is that this isn't an improvement or even a real change except to add complexity to an already complex system and it doesn't even solve the problem it's designed to solve. You're still on a pass/fail system, you're just controlling the outcome by saying "you win stealth" sometimes instead of all the time - which is only the case when someone is overspecialized in doing one particular thing.

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that not only does this solution not solve the problem, it actually aggravates it because there is no chance for failure - which is something the game's skills DO have, even if it's just because the other guy is an elf ranger with full ranks in spot, skill focus, and the eyes of the eagle magic item because there is no kill quite like overkill.

That is something that the system DOES do quite well, which is situational bonuses and penalties - perhaps the stealth guy is wearing a stealth suit and gets a bonus on grass, but a major penalty everywhere else, some places have places to hide and others don't, some creatures have unusual senses that can make stealth difficult and others are virtually blind.

Your system just doesn't account for when said assassin steps on a patch of dry leaves, suddenly giving him a -10 to all move silently rolls/stealth checks nor does it matter if said assassin were wearing a "masterwork tool" to make stealthing easier.


I'm kind of saying that skills need to do this, not just spells. Most of your examples of counters to stealth involve spellcasting. You're basically saying 'it doesn't matter if people auto-fail Perception checks because Tier 1 casters can do clever things that will help Stealth not trivialize the scenario'. I'm saying, lets make Perception and Use Rope and Knowledge(History) also be able to do 'clever things that will help Stealth not trivialize the scenario' rather than leaning on the casters so much.
Actually, no, not one of those things are necessarily reliant upon spells and skills DO do this, my point was that the "one and only" counterskill isn't the only counter out there to a particular thing.


The way to do this is in two parts - make Stealth's effects not based on numerical comparison, but based on concrete, qualitative things.

My argument is, Stealth should not be opposed by Perception at all. Instead, much like the spells you mention, Stealth should 'do something'; Perception should 'do something'; Search should 'do something'. Each of these somethings should be incomparable with eachother, and the interaction between those creates the 'game'. Ideally none of these 'somethings' directly trumps another, but rather each of them modifies the scenario in play.
... and my argument is that they do "do something" with a verifiable chance of success and failure.


This isn't actually a gain for having bonuses though. This is a gain for in general fixing the system. What do you specifically get for allowing spells to grant bonuses at all, compared to, say, just removing Knock entirely?
Well, considering that this entire project of mine and my reason for starting this and the other thread I linked in the opening post is to make a better system by fixing the problems, then yes, I'd say that if fixing the system is the result, then I've achieved the goal.

By keeping knock, I keep a powerful and useful tool for mages and dungeon delvers alike. By getting rid of knock, I gain nothing and loose a useful tool. I see no reason why knock simply can't have a minor alteration that makes it go from "stupid" to "useful and not overpowered" that solves the problem with minimal fanfare.


I don't think I understand why you're so set on retaining every spell in some form or other. What is so important about retaining Knock?
We're not just talking about knock, we're also talking about every other spell that replicates, duplicates, adds, or whatever to skills. Knock is simply an egregious and common example.


This isn't true by RAW at least. By RAW, a failed Search check never sets off the trap and retries are not forbidden.
By RAW, you cannot take 10 or 20 if you are being threatened or distracted. By RAW and the basic definition of the term "trap", most traps are hidden and deal lethal damage by someone that unknowingly triggers the trap according to said rules on traps. Ergo, traps constitute a threat and possess a challenge rating that provides experience for overcoming.

Therefore, you can not take 10 or 20 on a trap even though searching in general allows for generally taking 10 or 20.

NichG
2013-12-14, 10:43 PM
I'm not really sure what this would be adding to the game except additional unnecessary complexity. I don't believe it adds a tactical benefit beyond the fear that your stealth can "run out" ... somehow... and there are plenty of existing in-game tactical uses for the game skills.

Basically it replaces the 'random pass/fail' fear with a resource-management game. Right now, D&D is very strongly angled towards 'managing risk' - the best tactic is always to create situations in which you don't have to roll, because if you have a plan that depends on N things all going right, the chance of success decays exponentially with N. This is why, for example, you can't really run a heist game without it devolving into combat.

If you have 'moves' that are each highly reliable, but at the same time are not very powerful (in the sense that they do not individually determine the outcome of the situation) then this gives rise to more tactical complexity - you can think further ahead, because you can have more confidence in your own abilities.

When a spellcaster casts 'Invisibility' there's no failure chance that they have to take into account - the spell just works. Its a little mechanical packet that 'does something'. When they cast Polymorph on themselves, there's no random chance that they don't change shape. When a Bard initiates bardsong, there's no random chance that it doesn't go off. Having a random failure chance isn't really necessary or conducive to tactical or fun gameplay.



Further, your solution is still entirely binary - there are no gradients to success and failure - just an arbitrary limitation on its use... and automatic success... or rather "you win stealth" x times/day and/or against x enemies or for X duration.


The problem here is you're still thinking of it in terms of 'win' or 'lose'. Ideally I think that a system should be built of things that change the game state, rather than things which come predefined with a 'win' or 'lose' condition. 'Resolving' something in the form of a single check or action is never interesting. Interesting tactics come about from there being a 'state' which can be altered in certain ways by the participants, such that you can try to struggle to set the state into one that is beneficial/rewarding for you and not your enemies. In a fight, this state has to do with who is still a threat and who is neutralized - part of altering the state towards a winning condition involves individual steps that are not 'wins' or 'losses' - things like moving around the battle grid, putting up buffs, changing the terrain, etc.

In a heist, the 'state' might be the positions of all the guards, their alertness of various PCs, etc, along with location of the target object of the heist, where the 'win condition' is that the target object is removed from the building.



My entire point here is that this isn't an improvement or even a real change except to add complexity to an already complex system and it doesn't even solve the problem it's designed to solve. You're still on a pass/fail system, you're just controlling the outcome by saying "you win stealth" sometimes instead of all the time - which is only the case when someone is overspecialized in doing one particular thing.


By default in high level D&D, skills that are involved in opposed checks tend to follow the principle 'be overspecialized or don't bother', so it comes up a lot more than you seem to think. Skills against flat DCs don't have this problem so much.



In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that not only does this solution not solve the problem, it actually aggravates it because there is no chance for failure - which is something the game's skills DO have, even if it's just because the other guy is an elf ranger with full ranks in spot, skill focus, and the eyes of the eagle magic item because there is no kill quite like overkill.


As I said before, the way it solves the problem is by making this so-called 'success' less significant, rather than allowing it to decide an entire scenario. Whereas before a min-maxed rogue could walk through the entire dungeon on a single amped-up Stealth check, now the rogue is given a certain resource - 'turns hidden', which must be managed. More Stealth means more turns hidden, so an investment of any number of ranks is never a waste. However the automatic 'success' is only one turn of cover, not an entire dungeon's worth.

Think about it this way. In a fight, what would the consequence be for being able to automatically hit the enemy once? It's not that potent, because very few fights (I would say no interesting fights) are decided solely by a single hit like that. In a fight, one 'success' does not decide the encounter because it only incrementally advances the fight towards its conclusion.

Now how about a save or die, where you can make one person automatically fail their save and forfeit all immunity? That's far more problematic. In any fight where there's a clear leader or single high-profile target, that one 'success' ends the fight. Obviously then, something like that is a problem.

So the key for getting rid of opposed rolls is to make everything more like attacks and less like save-or-dies.



That is something that the system DOES do quite well, which is situational bonuses and penalties - perhaps the stealth guy is wearing a stealth suit and gets a bonus on grass, but a major penalty everywhere else, some places have places to hide and others don't, some creatures have unusual senses that can make stealth difficult and others are virtually blind.

Your system just doesn't account for when said assassin steps on a patch of dry leaves, suddenly giving him a -10 to all move silently rolls/stealth checks nor does it matter if said assassin were wearing a "masterwork tool" to make stealthing easier.


Here I thought you were accusing my system of being overly complex. Summing up large lists of modifiers doesn't really make for an interesting game. But something like it can still be done if you want:

Dry leaves - lose an extra round of stealth if you move through this square.

Masterwork Stealth tool - You get one final move action in which you remain hidden on the round that your stealth would run out.

Shadowy illumination - Spend only half as much Stealth as you normally would as long as you restrict your movement to these squares.



Well, considering that this entire project of mine and my reason for starting this and the other thread I linked in the opening post is to make a better system by fixing the problems, then yes, I'd say that if fixing the system is the result, then I've achieved the goal.


I disagree that you've actually fixed the system, but I think thats obvious from my posts.



By keeping knock, I keep a powerful and useful tool for mages and dungeon delvers alike. By getting rid of knock, I gain nothing and loose a useful tool. I see no reason why knock simply can't have a minor alteration that makes it go from "stupid" to "useful and not overpowered" that solves the problem with minimal fanfare.

I guess I fundamentally disagree that any specific spells comprise a 'useful tool' in of themselves. A tool must have a purpose, and when we're talking about something like this, that purpose isn't a reason the PCs would want to have it, its something that the spell does for the game system as a whole.

This is my problem with keeping spells that give bonuses - at least in the context of the system you propose, it seems to serve no actual design purpose. It has 'consequences' - casters can still reduce the importance of skill monkey characters, and skill monkey characters rely on casters to be the absolute best they could be at the thing they're supposed to be the best at already. But are these really what you want the system to do?



We're not just talking about knock, we're also talking about every other spell that replicates, duplicates, adds, or whatever to skills. Knock is simply an egregious and common example.


Yes, but you still haven't told me what the actual design purpose for your modified versions of these spells are, aside from 'I don't want to remove them'.



By RAW, you cannot take 10 or 20 if you are being threatened or distracted. By RAW and the basic definition of the term "trap", most traps are hidden and deal lethal damage by someone that unknowingly triggers the trap according to said rules on traps. Ergo, traps constitute a threat and possess a challenge rating that provides experience for overcoming.


Being in the presence of a trap that you are unaware of cannot be considered a distraction, because you're unaware of it. That just leaves 'threatened'.

By following your proposed interpretation I can detect the presence of traps at all times by trying to Take 20 on a quick, unrelated check. If I am unable to do so, there's a trap nearby.

Also there's the practical aspect. Instead of 'Taking 20' I can literally just say 'I search this area' 50 times. Since retries are permitted indefinitely, it doesn't matter if what I'm doing is 'actually' taking 20.



Therefore, you can not take 10 or 20 on a trap even though searching in general allows for generally taking 10 or 20.

I don't think this follows, but at this point I have to ask - how important is this point, really? Because based on what you've been saying it sounds like you would actually be fine with adding a rule to your skill system like: 'A failed Search check can set off traps on a natural 1', which would disable taking 20 and end this tangent of the discussion.

Rephath
2013-12-15, 03:58 AM
Social skills force your character to act in certain ways or do nothing. There needs to be some sort of social hit points where you either do what the social skill wanted or lose mental health. Or something else. I only suggest a fix to help point out the problem.

Neoxenok
2013-12-15, 10:25 AM
Social skills force your character to act in certain ways or do nothing. There needs to be some sort of social hit points where you either do what the social skill wanted or lose mental health. Or something else. I only suggest a fix to help point out the problem.

In some ways this is unavoidable and I've always felt it weird that you couldn't use your social skills on other a PC members. There are definitely changes that need to be made with the social skills (in particular diplomacy.) The set DCs of diplomacy allows for those broken diplomancer builds, for example.

I always had to ad hoc the responses and consequences of most social skills for this reason, but those are the hardest skills to revise with a simple mechanic by a fair margin.


Basically it replaces the 'random pass/fail' fear with a resource-management game.
Right - and my point is this:
You're not solving a problem. You're just exchanging the current problems for new ones.


When a spellcaster casts 'Invisibility' there's no failure chance that they have to take into account - the spell just works. Its a little mechanical packet that 'does something'. When they cast Polymorph on themselves, there's no random chance that they don't change shape. When a Bard initiates bardsong, there's no random chance that it doesn't go off. Having a random failure chance isn't really necessary or conducive to tactical or fun gameplay.
Okay, there's a number of issues here.
1) Magic isn't a physical, real life skill that has literally zero reason why it can't be repeated at infinitum.
2) Spells like invisibility can be countered with, and I'll ignore the litany of magic spells that directly and indirectly counter invisibility (I can name at least 3 2nd and 1st level spells at the top of my head) a DC 20 spot check against a moving invisible creature, invisibility doesn't make it more difficult to use listen to detect the presence of an invisible creature, and there are number of special senses that can detect invisible creatures, including scent, blindsense, and blindsight which are resources available to 1st level characters (such as purchasing a trained dog).
3) Skills DO do something. You can stealth whether you roll a 1 on your stealth roll or a 20. It only matters when someone tries to spot you or when failure has significant consequences.


The problem here is you're still thinking of it in terms of 'win' or 'lose'. Ideally I think that a system should be built of things that change the game state, rather than things which come predefined with a 'win' or 'lose' condition. 'Resolving' something in the form of a single check or action is never interesting. Interesting tactics come about from there being a 'state' which can be altered in certain ways by the participants, such that you can try to struggle to set the state into one that is beneficial/rewarding for you and not your enemies. In a fight, this state has to do with who is still a threat and who is neutralized - part of altering the state towards a winning condition involves individual steps that are not 'wins' or 'losses' - things like moving around the battle grid, putting up buffs, changing the terrain, etc.

In a heist, the 'state' might be the positions of all the guards, their alertness of various PCs, etc, along with location of the target object of the heist, where the 'win condition' is that the target object is removed from the building.
Your change still involves a win/lose situation. The main difference is that you give the player the power of knowing when he'll fail by allowing him to automatically win and account for it. You're keeping everything except the randomness of the game because "'Resolving' something in the form of a single check or action is never interesting."

Since when? D&D is a game that has random chances of success and failure built into its core mechanic. d20 + modifiers vs. a DC *is* the game's core mechanic and the skill system is built directly from that -basically as modified ability checks.


By default in high level D&D, skills that are involved in opposed checks tend to follow the principle 'be overspecialized or don't bother', so it comes up a lot more than you seem to think. Skills against flat DCs don't have this problem so much.
A lot of things break down at high and epic level play, which has more to do, I think, with a lot of the other problems of high and epic level D&D. Namely things like overblown magical bonuses (that cheap +30 item to a single skill), similar spell-based bonuses (such as glibness), creatures that have 40+ hit dice and are CR <25 like dragons and a lot of undead and fey (and their skill bonuses would be similarly redonkulous).

Thus, I'm addressing skills in this manner by addressing magic items, spells, and monster HD inflation first before any other problems but it's a start.

So, I'm measuring my changes to skills themselves by narrowing my assumptions about skills at high levels and comparing PCs with the feat, spell, and magic item changes I mentioned earlier, but until I can account for all the variables, I can't make any accurate judgements just yet. This is why my addressing of skills now has more to do with consistency and common sense (the DC 60 survival skill roll you need to make to identify a creature by their tracks, for example) than the fact that Monster X has 102 hit dice and has a +105 bonus to spot and listen checks before other modifiers and is CR 30~something or that the epic wizard can beat the dedicated rogue at stealthing using the +100 skill bonus item he crafted to hide and move silently on a weekend using a fraction of his resources.

*That* was why overspecialization was necessary at all and that doesn't even begin to be an issue until high level play and I'd even argue that it's not even entirely necessary as the level of overspecialization needed to play is only necessary because of the rare instances of overspecialization by opponents or the few creatures with outlandishly overblown hit dice.


As I said before, the way it solves the problem is by making this so-called 'success' less significant, rather than allowing it to decide an entire scenario. Whereas before a min-maxed rogue could walk through the entire dungeon on a single amped-up Stealth check, now the rogue is given a certain resource - 'turns hidden', which must be managed. More Stealth means more turns hidden, so an investment of any number of ranks is never a waste. However the automatic 'success' is only one turn of cover, not an entire dungeon's worth.
... and then we run into the problem of "my skill worked for this length of time, and now it doesn't for some reason" for a skill that has no reason at all to not being repeatable ad nausium, particularly if he ran out of this resources in the middle of said dungeon. There is zero logic to that.


Now how about a save or die, where you can make one person automatically fail their save and forfeit all immunity? That's far more problematic. In any fight where there's a clear leader or single high-profile target, that one 'success' ends the fight. Obviously then, something like that is a problem.

So the key for getting rid of opposed rolls is to make everything more like attacks and less like save-or-dies.
What?
Skills are nothing like save-or-dies and even if there was some way to compare them, your system doesn't change that relationship.

The best way I can use your analogy to tell you the problem I see with your solution is to say that if you feel that skills are like save or dies, then yours is "I'm immune to death twice per day but on the third time I die. No saving throw is ever made because rolling saves to resolve success is never interesting."


Here I thought you were accusing my system of being overly complex. Summing up large lists of modifiers doesn't really make for an interesting game. But something like it can still be done if you want:
... and there's the other thing. You're telling me that being able to modify the difficulty of something up or down depending on the situation on the fly doesn't make for an interesting game but go on to make up a bunch of mini-rules that have to be abjudicated individually and somehow intermixing this into your rules that just either extends, ends, or shortens the (what would be) auto-successes.

You don't see how that adds needless complexity? I don't have to remember that dry leaves add +X to the modifier. I can easily just insert whatever modifier I want and passing familiarity with the rules gives me good guidance to say that +80 to the DC would be too much and +1 would be too little.

Although the idea of what adds interest into a game is entirely subjective, just look to movies and video games and board games and everything else to see why people play them and find them interesting. The common element to all of them is tension (and conflict), which itself includes the possibility of failure. There is no tension in movies if the protagonist barely needs to put effort into winning. There is no tension in games if winning in games just amounts to spending time rather than effort in that game.

This is why I don't like the comic book version of superman. All of his conflict amounts to the fact that he's holding back his true power. The DCAU superman (of superman the animated series and the Justice League) is still among the most powerful beings that exist in that universe, but he can be beaten and even killed without kryptonite or magic. He needs friends and allies because he actually can't do everything himself.

So back on topic, I do find that being able to say "You get a -2 to your roll because of X" easier and simpler to do than this:


Dry leaves - lose an extra round of stealth if you move through this square.

Masterwork Stealth tool - You get one final move action in which you remain hidden on the round that your stealth would run out.

Shadowy illumination - Spend only half as much Stealth as you normally would as long as you restrict your movement to these squares.



I disagree that you've actually fixed the system, but I think thats obvious from my posts.
I never said that I did, I'm merely stating the parameters of what I consider success and failure.




I guess I fundamentally disagree that any specific spells comprise a 'useful tool' in of themselves. A tool must have a purpose, and when we're talking about something like this, that purpose isn't a reason the PCs would want to have it, its something that the spell does for the game system as a whole.
No individual PC option does anything for the game as a whole. I don't see why that has to be the benchmark to choose to keep something given that I don't see the purpose to throwing it out to begin with.


This is my problem with keeping spells that give bonuses - at least in the context of the system you propose, it seems to serve no actual design purpose. It has 'consequences' - casters can still reduce the importance of skill monkey characters, and skill monkey characters rely on casters to be the absolute best they could be at the thing they're supposed to be the best at already. But are these really what you want the system to do?
I don't really have an issue with some role bleeding between classes. A skill is in infinite resource where most spells are not. The changes I've already proposed still give the overall advantage to the skillmonkey. I do take issue when the skill monkey is worse than said spells, which is what I'm aiming to fix.


Yes, but you still haven't told me what the actual design purpose for your modified versions of these spells are, aside from 'I don't want to remove them'.
The design purpose of modifying those spells is to eliminate the automatic-win nature of some of those spells, at least in terms of letting the caster be better than the skill monkeys at... skill monkeying.

Just removing the spells doesn't solve the problem, it just avoids it and removes things from the game that can be easily fixed. This is especially true given that the reasoning is flawed. "Why not?" is not an acceptable reason given that "fixing the spells" is at least as valid a solution as removing them.


Being in the presence of a trap that you are unaware of cannot be considered a distraction, because you're unaware of it. That just leaves 'threatened'.
Quite.


By following your proposed interpretation I can detect the presence of traps at all times by trying to Take 20 on a quick, unrelated check. If I am unable to do so, there's a trap nearby.
except that not detecting the trap can either injure or kill the person searching and thus constitutes a threat that makes "taking 20" either impossible or suicidal.


Also there's the practical aspect. Instead of 'Taking 20' I can literally just say 'I search this area' 50 times. Since retries are permitted indefinitely, it doesn't matter if what I'm doing is 'actually' taking 20.
"I search 20 times" *is* taking twenty.


I don't think this follows, but at this point I have to ask - how important is this point, really? Because based on what you've been saying it sounds like you would actually be fine with adding a rule to your skill system like: 'A failed Search check can set off traps on a natural 1', which would disable taking 20 and end this tangent of the discussion.
As I keep saying, it's not adding a rule. You don't have to only fail on a natural one to fail at a d20 check, you just have to fail at detecting said trap, which can be done just fine on a number naturally below that of the set DC.
Taking 20 is not the same thing as "I get 20 everywhere always." By the rules expressly stated in that section, it is "I get every number on the d20 until I win." This is why you cannot take twenty when there are significant consequences to failure, because taking 20 would guarantee it because taking twenty also means you've technically rolled every number below 20 as well.

TuggyNE
2013-12-15, 05:30 PM
except that not detecting the trap can either injure or kill the person searching and thus constitutes a threat that makes "taking 20" either impossible or suicidal.

How does that work? You can search each square or whatever from the next square over, so unless you missed the trap in a given spot after taking 20 last time, you won't get hit by it when you move into that spot to search the next bit.


"I search 20 times" *is* taking twenty.

That was the point, yes.

NichG
2013-12-15, 05:33 PM
Your change still involves a win/lose situation. The main difference is that you give the player the power of knowing when he'll fail by allowing him to automatically win and account for it. You're keeping everything except the randomness of the game because "'Resolving' something in the form of a single check or action is never interesting."

Since when? D&D is a game that has random chances of success and failure built into its core mechanic. d20 + modifiers vs. a DC *is* the game's core mechanic and the skill system is built directly from that -basically as modified ability checks.


Honestly I think this right here is the fundamental gap between us. I can't seem to explain to you the difference between an ability that modifies the game state tactically, and an ability that resolves the scenario.

Having your ability work is not a 'win'. Being able to be unseen in a room full of guards for 1 round is not a 'win'. In the system I'm trying to describe, at least, its the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat. The question the system should be asking isn't 'does this work?' but rather should be 'how do these things interact?'

In a fight, if I hit the dragon with my sword and do damage, that isn't a 'win'. The win is when I kill the dragon. Combat is interesting in D&D because no single roll or sequence of rolls decides the battle - after every action, the game state is changed and in principle the best tactical decisions have changed as well. A 'duel' of two people standing there rolling to-hits against eachother is boring. A fight where the wizard casts a Save or Die in the first round that the BBEG isn't immune to, and either passes or fails the save, is boring.

This is why 4e's skill challenges fell so flat - they reduce something that could have been a tactically interesting scenario into a series of die rolls where the specific skills in use have very little actual consequence. Instead of a complex game state, everything is reduced to two state variables - how many successes have there been, and how many failures have there been?

I think, if we can't agree that something like that is more boring than combat, with its relative positioning, terrain, status conditions, ranges and reaches, controlled zones, and the like, then we're not going to agree about anything.

Until we resolve this specific point, I'm going to focus only on it, because if we can't agree here there's no point in continuing - we're looking for fundamentally different games.



Although the idea of what adds interest into a game is entirely subjective, just look to movies and video games and board games and everything else to see why people play them and find them interesting. The common element to all of them is tension (and conflict), which itself includes the possibility of failure. There is no tension in movies if the protagonist barely needs to put effort into winning. There is no tension in games if winning in games just amounts to spending time rather than effort in that game.


Chess doesn't have random dice rolls in it, but there is still tension and the possibility of failure. I'm arguing for a game that is more like chess and less like craps.



"I search 20 times" *is* taking twenty.

As I keep saying, it's not adding a rule. You don't have to only fail on a natural one to fail at a d20 check, you just have to fail at detecting said trap, which can be done just fine on a number naturally below that of the set DC.
Taking 20 is not the same thing as "I get 20 everywhere always." By the rules expressly stated in that section, it is "I get every number on the d20 until I win." This is why you cannot take twenty when there are significant consequences to failure, because taking 20 would guarantee it because taking twenty also means you've technically rolled every number below 20 as well.

Please answer my question: why are we still arguing this? Is there actually some point you want to make that hinges on this that is relevant to your homebrew? Because I'm happy to go off on a tangent arguing rules minutia, but if it doesn't actually matter with respect to your homebrew, then its just cluttering up your thread.

Neoxenok
2013-12-16, 08:58 AM
How does that work? You can search each square or whatever from the next square over, so unless you missed the trap in a given spot after taking 20 last time, you won't get hit by it when you move into that spot to search the next bit.
The search skill specifies that it allows you to search a 5-by-5 ft square as a full round action. Taking twenty would thus be twenty such full round actions. It does not say that you can search for a trap without interacting with one and unless you can explain to me how searching for a trap before you are aware of its existence never ever sets one off, then it stands to reason (and RAW) that the possibility of being threatened exists by doing so.

Thus, you can not take twenty without setting off the trap, assuming that any number you can roll on a d20 is below the trap's search DC.

This is why traps have search DCs. This is because they are hidden so they can "trap" beings that are not aware of them. Such as bear traps, pit traps, arrow traps, and traps that shoot bees at you. They are hidden so they cannot be bypassed by anyone that isn't already aware of their existence.

Thus, you can not take 10 or 20 when searching for them, because the rules state that you must do so if and ONLY if there is no threat in failure doing so. For example, you can take 10 but not 20 on a craft check because there is no threat in it but there is a penalty for failure. No threat means you can take 10 or 20 and the fact that a low enough roll results in ruining what you're crafting means you can't take 20. Thus, you can only take 10.


Honestly I think this right here is the fundamental gap between us. I can't seem to explain to you the difference between an ability that modifies the game state tactically, and an ability that resolves the scenario.

You've explained it just fine. I understand the concepts you're trying to bring across to me in regards to how you believe the change fundamentally shifts the game's skill system into abilities that are used tactically rather than scenario resolution.

What I am arguing is that it doesn't change the game as much as you think on tactical terms and it leaves the abilities to be a metagaming mess. Further, your reasoning is fundamentally flawed due to what I see to be a misunderstanding as to how skills are and can be used as your statements fly in the face of my own experience with skills as both a player and DM. Finally, the change as fundamental to the system as what you're proposing I think deserves the extra scrutiny because of the potential problems that can be faced, which I am attempting to address here.


Having your ability work is not a 'win'. Being able to be unseen in a room full of guards for 1 round is not a 'win'. In the system I'm trying to describe, at least, its the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat. The question the system should be asking isn't 'does this work?' but rather should be 'how do these things interact?'

The thing is - it is a win. It's a win because you can be unseen in a room full of guards for one round.

The current skill system takes both your skill in stealth and the guards' skill in spotting intruders into account. Their ability to spot you is not a % chance of being able to stealth. It's the guards spotting you better than you can hide from their ability to spot you. Even the skills that don't just give you their ability (like jump, handle animal, perform, profession, and so on) give you gradient abilities rather than simple pass/fail as you seem to think skills do. You only fail when you're attempting to do something that requires more skill level than you are able to give and that does sometimes involve the d20 roll for the same reason that everything else in D&D has a random chance to fail - because sometimes you bring your A-game and sometimes you don't, figuratively speaking.

Given what skills actually do, I find that when you say things about your alteration like " its the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat" is just flat out wrong in that assertion in that this is what you're changing the game into or rather that this is what the current system isn't. Because if that's what your alteration is, then the current RAW skills are, when you win a contest of opposing skills, the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat despite someone else attempting to stop you from doing so.


In a fight, if I hit the dragon with my sword and do damage, that isn't a 'win'. The win is when I kill the dragon. Combat is interesting in D&D because no single roll or sequence of rolls decides the battle - after every action, the game state is changed and in principle the best tactical decisions have changed as well. A 'duel' of two people standing there rolling to-hits against eachother is boring. A fight where the wizard casts a Save or Die in the first round that the BBEG isn't immune to, and either passes or fails the save, is boring.

What D&D combats have you participated in? Yes, there is the tactical element of the right use of spells, skills, abilities, and everything else, but when you say "no single roll or sequence of rolls decides the battle" then I have to disagree on that assertion most vehemently. D&D combat, at least pre-4th edition, can swing wildly from one direction to the other depending on who makes or fails a saving throw, receives a critical hit, and so forth and a lot of that is entirely randomly determined.

That said, I entirely agree on the stands-in-one-place fighter who just swings until one of them falls down or the wizard fight where opponents just hope they keep hitting that saving throw DC or the fight ends. However, if you're attempting to compare skills to this, then I have to both agree and disagree.

If you break down everything in D&D into its most fundamental components, then everything you're doing for every scenario is resolved in (usually) exactly the same way and in particular sequences. The only thing that changes is the modifier you're using on your d20 roll and its purpose. That's because d20 + modifiers is the core game mechanic.
Good and interesting combats don't usually just happen. It requires the efforts put into good encounter design by the DM and by exercising creativity by the players and on-the-fly creativity on the DM's part. All of these things can be done just as easily for skills as they can with combat.

The point being that yes, I agree that a long string of die rolls, opposed or otherwise, is boring, but where we disagree is that this is somehow fundamental to the way skills are. Like combat, such 'skill encounters' need some amount of design and creativity on both ends in order to make it interesting.


Chess doesn't have random dice rolls in it, but there is still tension and the possibility of failure. I'm arguing for a game that is more like chess and less like craps.

One thing I've alluded to but never specifically pointed out is the metagaming factor here with your change. The problem with using skills like an ability that you can activate and automatically get for a limited amount of time or against a limited number of opponents or whatever makes absolutely no sense.

4th Edition was filled with this kind of thing and it was one of the things that I hated the most about that system. It would tell you that an "encounter" or "daily" fighter ability involves using his weapon a particular way - so why can't the fighter do this all the time? If the rogue is so good at stealthing for X amount of time, why does this skill suddenly stop? Why can't you use this ability the instant that circumstances otherwise allow other than that the game rules tell you that you can't. This makes no in-game sense given that this is a skill rather than, say, a magical ability where you can "run out" of the magical fuel that powers the magical ability.

Further, why does this ability automatically work instead of giving the spotters a shot at spotting that infiltrator?


Please answer my question: why are we still arguing this? Is there actually some point you want to make that hinges on this that is relevant to your homebrew? Because I'm happy to go off on a tangent arguing rules minutia, but if it doesn't actually matter with respect to your homebrew, then its just cluttering up your thread.

I created the thread as a place to discuss the issues and problems with skills so that when I eventually get around to rewriting them, I can get a sense of what I need to focus on when fixing a lot of the issues with skills in addition to things peripheral with skills (like spells that affect skills in any manner).

So knowing how skills DO work is as important to know as how they do not.

NichG
2013-12-16, 10:47 AM
You've explained it just fine. I understand the concepts you're trying to bring across to me in regards to how you believe the change fundamentally shifts the game's skill system into abilities that are used tactically rather than scenario resolution.

What I am arguing is that it doesn't change the game as much as you think on tactical terms and it leaves the abilities to be a metagaming mess. Further, your reasoning is fundamentally flawed due to what I see to be a misunderstanding as to how skills are and can be used as your statements fly in the face of my own experience with skills as both a player and DM. Finally, the change as fundamental to the system as what you're proposing I think deserves the extra scrutiny because of the potential problems that can be faced, which I am attempting to address here.


The metagame stuff can be easily fixed. 'Every round you rely on your Stealth to avoid being noticed creates minor tells that gradually increase the suspicion of your enemies; if your enemies can communicate with eachother, they share this suspicion'. When you're sneaking you cast a small shadow, make a small sound, etc. The better you are at it, the fewer of these small errors you make, so the more slowly the level of alertness grows. This sort of 'explaining' of the mechanics should take place at the end of the process, because it needs to be customized to the mechanics, and the mechanics have to be right first.

My relevant experience with skills:

- A campaign where the DM threw Hide/MS-specialized assassins with Pass Without Trace at us from a mile away using long-ranged attacks.
- A campaign I ran where one character had Hide/MS checks in the 60s and Sleight-of-Hand checks in the 90s by Lv12 or so.
- An L5R campaign where the DM didn't understand 'the more checks you call for, the harder the task' leading to some ridiculous stuff on the part of the players in order to game their way around stuff.
- An E6 campaign where various boosters and stacking bonuses were used to achieve CL 23 and make any item in the books, which were used to pump it even higher.
- At least 3 campaigns where magical skill boosting was used extensively. In one, we had special craft rules such that you could non-magically make magical items by hitting epic Craft checks. By the end of the campaign I was hitting 230 or so, most of which came from magic buffing. In another campaign, all spells above 3rd level were re-written, but the party's Divine-Insight-using Factotum was known for hitting 30s and 40s on untrained skill checks. In another (low-level) campaign, the feat Chosen of Evil was used for similar hijinks.

It got to the point where when I was coming up with rules for DCs for new uses of skills in one of my campaigns, '50' was considered the mandatory average result around Lv10 to do some basic item enchantment. The mundane character focused in Crafting (to the extent of having all the skill boost feats and the like) could not keep up with the untrained Factotum using magic buffs, which became a point of contention between the players.

- A campaign in which the DM had to replace the d20 for skill checks with a d100 because the skill checks got so high via buffing that there was no variance.
- Numerous campaigns where many of the existing skills were considered de-facto worthless, to the point where in one campaign the DM had a special rule that you could pick any one worthless skill and have no skill cap for it, and epic results on said skill do special things. Mine was 'Heal'. Several other examples: Jump, Profession: Miner, Use Rope.
- My current, non-D&D campaign, where everything is a skill check and opposed skill checks seem to already be creating problems (namely, one player is pumping Empathy will all his xp despite the fact that he long-since passed the point where no NPC in the campaign can actually beat his check, because he doesn't know if there will be some NPC later with ridiculous ranks in Trickery and doesn't want to take the chance).

Out of all of this, I have yet to be in a campaign where the party as a whole ever tries to use stealth - either one person stealths and splits the party and simply cannot be detected, or the party just busts their way in.



The thing is - it is a win. It's a win because you can be unseen in a room full of guards for one round.

The current skill system takes both your skill in stealth and the guards' skill in spotting intruders into account. Their ability to spot you is not a % chance of being able to stealth. It's the guards spotting you better than you can hide from their ability to spot you. Even the skills that don't just give you their ability (like jump, handle animal, perform, profession, and so on) give you gradient abilities rather than simple pass/fail as you seem to think skills do. You only fail when you're attempting to do something that requires more skill level than you are able to give and that does sometimes involve the d20 roll for the same reason that everything else in D&D has a random chance to fail - because sometimes you bring your A-game and sometimes you don't, figuratively speaking.


When I say pass/fail, I'm talking about post-resolution, not pre-resolution. If you have a 45% chance of success, either you succeed or you don't - thats pass/fail.

A gradient ability would be something like this (using Spellcraft for example):

- Roll Spellcraft against 10+5*(Spell Level) of a spell you see being cast. If you succeed, you can immediately learn the spell. If you fail by 1-5, you can identify the spell and its effects. If you fail by 6-10, you just get the school, level, elemental descriptors, and 'divine or arcane'. If you fail by 11-15, you only get the school, level, and 'divine or arcane'. If you fail by 16-20, you only get if its divine or arcane.

But even for something like this, in practice it stops being a gradient eventually. Once someone has a +54 Spellcraft modifier, they just get everything, always.

A better example might be, then:

- Heal: You may make a Heal check to instantly heal damage. The amount of damage healed is equal to the check result. This can be done at most 1/day per person - time is required to recover from surgery before they're strong enough to endure another.

That scales continuously and stays relevant up to check results in the hundreds (which in your proposed system at least would cover the entire range one might expect to achieve).



Given what skills actually do, I find that when you say things about your alteration like " its the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat" is just flat out wrong in that assertion in that this is what you're changing the game into or rather that this is what the current system isn't. Because if that's what your alteration is, then the current RAW skills are, when you win a contest of opposing skills, the equivalent of being allowed to use your move action to move 30ft forward in combat despite someone else attempting to stop you from doing so.


There's two parts here, which seem to be tangled (and I'm having difficulty parsing your text).

1. I want a system where skills are potent - supernaturally so, at the high end.

2. I want a system where this potency comes in the form of enabling tactical action rather than resolving a scenario in one step.

Also, it bears mentioning:
3. I want a system that minimizes feedback between the GM's metagame knowledge and challenge generation.

Example: If you have 10 ranks in Jump, your 5ft step counts as teleportation. It's more powerful than Jump is in the current system, but its also tactical action rather than scenario resolution.

Example of what I don't want (#2): Roll Diplomacy against an enemy's Sense Motive to get them to agree to your terms in a negotiation. This is powerful, yes, but it resolves a scenario in a single step.

Another example of what I don't want (#3): The party rogue has a +40 Hide and MS modifier. As a GM I am roughly aware of this. I must now decide what the Spot and Listen modifiers are of the average guard in my extra-planar prison. Therefore, if I make them +20 or less, I am saying 'the rogue will not be noticed'; if I make them +35 or more, I am saying 'the rogue will almost certainly be noticed'. This is similar to, e.g., having a party where one PC has an AC of 80 - do you put in enemies that can hit that AC or not? Sure you can build someone with a to-hit that high via optimization, but you're either consciously neutralizing the PC's advantage (in which case they might as well not have bothered to raise their AC) or you aren't.



What D&D combats have you participated in? Yes, there is the tactical element of the right use of spells, skills, abilities, and everything else, but when you say "no single roll or sequence of rolls decides the battle" then I have to disagree on that assertion most vehemently. D&D combat, at least pre-4th edition, can swing wildly from one direction to the other depending on who makes or fails a saving throw, receives a critical hit, and so forth and a lot of that is entirely randomly determined.


Quite a few. The ruling tactical principle is 'avoid anything that requires a roll when at all possible' - thats why immunity to the stuff that shuts you down is important in high level play. Its why Magic Missile is so nice at times, and part of why Web and Solid Fog are so potent while Finger of Death seems nice on paper but often you might as well not have bothered. Its why in 1ed D&D you don't even get into combat if you can help it. Its why if you've got the OOC skill its better to RP your way past the guards than to take your chances with a Bluff check.

But even outside of that, what you're missing is that it isn't just a single roll or sequence or rolls. If the party wizard fails a save, that sucks - but its a situation I can react to and change tactics to respond to. Its different than, for example, if the entire party failed their save against Wail of the Banshee.



That said, I entirely agree on the stands-in-one-place fighter who just swings until one of them falls down or the wizard fight where opponents just hope they keep hitting that saving throw DC or the fight ends. However, if you're attempting to compare skills to this, then I have to both agree and disagree.

If you break down everything in D&D into its most fundamental components, then everything you're doing for every scenario is resolved in (usually) exactly the same way and in particular sequences. The only thing that changes is the modifier you're using on your d20 roll and its purpose. That's because d20 + modifiers is the core game mechanic.


They call this the core game mechanic, but it really has very little to do with D&D in my experience. The 'core game mechanic' of D&D 3.5ed is the character creation metagame. When it matters, its trivial to make the rolls themselves irrelevant - and in my experience, the higher-op the game, the more this happens. I've had far more times when either there was no way for me to hit an AC except with a nat 20, or where I would only miss on a nat 1, than cases where AC actually happened to fall in the middle of my range. With fixed-DC skill uses and taking 10, generally you are able to know 'I can do these things' and 'I can't do these things yet'.



Good and interesting combats don't usually just happen. It requires the efforts put into good encounter design by the DM and by exercising creativity by the players and on-the-fly creativity on the DM's part. All of these things can be done just as easily for skills as they can with combat.

The point being that yes, I agree that a long string of die rolls, opposed or otherwise, is boring, but where we disagree is that this is somehow fundamental to the way skills are. Like combat, such 'skill encounters' need some amount of design and creativity on both ends in order to make it interesting.


I would say that a fight where you just toss down 20 orcs is more likely to be interesting than, say, a dungeon where you toss down 20 of the same trap. And its certainly more interesting than a situation where you can roll Diplomacy vs the king and either 'convince him' or 'fail to convince him'.

The sort of mental model I have for an 'interesting skill game' is a heist. D&D is really horrible at simulating a heist right now. Part of this is the inability to plan, part of it is the over-connectedness of elements of a plan (if one part fails, it all fails), part of it is the extreme variance in skills due to availability or absence of buffs, for example. But I can easily see how an 'absolute skill' system could do a heist.

Stealth gives you rounds (or zones) of hidden movement. Knowledge lets you ask a fixed number of questions of the GM ahead of time. Bluff lets you distract one NPC at a time for a certain total number of rounds. Heck, 'Attack' lets you neutralize a certain fixed number of guards before you're overwhelmed.

The entire thing then becomes a huge puzzle, with the limited nature of each resource meaning that where and when you choose to deploy each bit is of utmost importance. You can't just bluff every NPC, you have to choose which ones you hit. You can't just sneak through the entire complex, you have to choose which rooms you use it on. And so on.

Obviously this is no longer D&D, but its kind of the mental model I'm borrowing from.



Further, why does this ability automatically work instead of giving the spotters a shot at spotting that infiltrator?


Why not? I'm basically proposing a fundamental change to what the skills mean. In such a system, 'Spot' is not something that measures how good you are at penetrating cover, but rather comprises a set of proactive abilities that have to do with perception.

For example, perhaps Spot lets you designate a certain number of squares as 'under direct observation', and one cannot Stealth through those squares (or one burns cover at a faster rate).

The result is that it isn't a 'chance of X or Y', but rather an application of one tactical ability against another. The question becomes 'can you cross the room with the Stealth you have left?'/'can the spotters arrange observed zones to prevent you?' instead of 'who rolls better?'



I created the thread as a place to discuss the issues and problems with skills so that when I eventually get around to rewriting them, I can get a sense of what I need to focus on when fixing a lot of the issues with skills in addition to things peripheral with skills (like spells that affect skills in any manner).

So knowing how skills DO work is as important to know as how they do not.

Okay then:



Check
You generally must be within 10 feet of the object or surface to be searched. The table below gives DCs for typical tasks involving the Search skill.


This text means you can search 'by eye' since you can search things out of reach. If you can search by eye, then there is no chance of setting off the trap. Furthermore, nowhere in the rules text for Search does it say that a failed check sets off the trap.

Other skills consistently list consequences for failure and explicitly have Try Again: No if you are not allowed to do so. Disable Device, for instance, explicitly says you can only Try Again if you failed by 4 or less and are aware that the trap is still armed, and also explicitly gives the ranges for which the trap is triggered and for which the attempt fails but the trap is not triggered.

Furthermore, Search is listed as a 'common take 20 skill' on p65 of the PHB.

For Pathfinder, Perception has explicit distance modifiers (+1/10 feet), and can explicitly be retried. Given that, someone could 'Take 15' and search for a trap 50ft away.

Neoxenok
2014-02-06, 06:00 AM
It's been a month and a half I haven't abandoned my project. I've just been lazy about posting online. None the less...


The metagame stuff can be easily fixed. 'Every round you rely on your Stealth to avoid being noticed creates minor tells that gradually increase the suspicion of your enemies
You can justify it however you wish, but it still creates problems both mechanically by increasing relative complexity with exception-based rulings modified by other specific rules in other specific situations and by transforming the skill into a metagaming construct where the player 'activates' stealth with a built in rule that makes it impossible to do so after X amount of time - essentially making long-term uses of the skill impossible.


My relevant experience with skills:
... and this explains it. I don't know how or why those skills managed to get that high (or why those players felt it was necessary) but part of the reasons why I chose to reform the entire game was partly due to this problem, though I can name other skills that need it more than the ones we're discussing (diplomacy being the best example) but your craft example hits the nail on the head and that's why spells and 'magic bonuses' are the primary target of my fix to the over-large skill stacking problem and not reforming skills to work on something other than the core mechanic.

Also, I can't say that I would have responded the same way your DM did. I capped most skill DCs at 50, barring truly extraordinary examples (and DCs that would numerically increase that way or opposed skills but I also made it rarer that NPCs increased skills to that extent - nearly all of them were ranks + ability + synergy bonuses and sometimes spell-based bonuses using buff spells.) I ran my longest game to 40th level.


When I say pass/fail, I'm talking about post-resolution, not pre-resolution. If you have a 45% chance of success, either you succeed or you don't - that's pass/fail.
I understand that, but what you don't understand is that that doesn't invalidate my argument.


A gradient ability would be something like this (using Spellcraft for example):
WotC already implemented something like this with a lot of its expanded material, particularly with knowledge checks on a lot of their newer material before 3.5e was replaced by 4th (and they may have continued that tradition with 4th, but I can't say for certain given that I've seen very little of 4th's material past the first PHB.) I'm familiar with the concept but I don't see what this has to do with your previous statements regarding skills. I've reviewed our previous posts and this seems rather out of the blue.


There's two parts here, which seem to be tangled (and I'm having difficulty parsing your text).
Okay... you need to define what a 'scenario' is in terms of your arguments because 4th edition "fixed" this by making skills either heavily combat-oriented. All of your "roll-free" examples of stealth in our earlier posts were all short-term/short range "daily" uses where you always fail after a certain number of rounds of using a particular skill because of the apparently enormous problem of being able to solve an entire stealth mission on a single check. Perhaps I'm mischaracterizing your arguments since it's been an entire month and a half since we last spoke on this topic, but even if we used one of the many diplomacy fixes (both Rich's fix and the one on Justin Alexander's blog, which is a modification of Rich's fix) diplomacy can still "solve" a scenario by virtue of doing exactly what you'd expect someone skilled in diplomacy to do.

That is to say that if it's an important plot point that negotiations happen between two warring factions and diplomancer joe walks in on Day 43 of sweaty peace negotiations that is going poorly and joe "solves" the problem because joe's player says "I negotiate a peace treaty!" and he rolls up a result of 43 on a DC of 40 and the DM declares that Joe successfully wins peace for all concerned and hookers for everyone else, thus ending the entire adventure or circumventing any number of major challenges the DM had planned that time around.

Is this something like what you're talking about? Is this the problem? Because that's not a game system problem that I or anyone can solve - that's a DM problem. The game rules are tools, not absolutes. As DM, I've always felt it was perfectly valid to say "yeah, world peace might have been your intention and you definitely left a positive impression and helped advance peace, but it's going to be harder than that." That's a perfectly valid thing to do and I've had experience using it.

Further, your #3 example is an absolutely atrocious way to handle a game. While I can't deny that there are far worse abuses in the game than an 80 AC or high stealth scores, but if your need to fix the system stems from an inability to challenge a player character's most powerful skill or ability (stealth with perception and AC with attack bonus) like complaining that the fire immune red dragon disciple is broken because you can't make fire abilities hot enough or damaging enough to hurt him. That's what I hear when you say things like that because the balance issues that may be behind these problems are more complex than that.

I'm not saying that over-inflated skills aren't a problem - the diplomancer builds are excellent examples of this - what I am saying is that the problem and the solution to that problem is because players CAN get those bonuses but rather the problem is HOW and that has nothing to do with the skills themselves.


But even outside of that, what you're missing is that it isn't just a single roll or sequence or rolls. If the party wizard fails a save, that sucks - but its a situation I can react to and change tactics to respond to. Its different than, for example, if the entire party failed their save against Wail of the Banshee.
You say that no single roll or sequence of rolls determines a combat but then go on to cite that "if a wizard fails his save, it sucks but the party can plan around it, but if the party all fails their save, then it's a different" ~ all of these things require a roll and sequence of rolls, respectively and both scenarios radically alter the way combat can play out. You seem to have made my argument for me.


They call this the core game mechanic, but it really has very little to do with D&D in my experience. The 'core game mechanic' of D&D 3.5ed is the character creation metagame. When it matters, its trivial to make the rolls themselves irrelevant - and in my experience, the higher-op the game, the more this happens. I've had far more times when either there was no way for me to hit an AC except with a nat 20, or where I would only miss on a nat 1, than cases where AC actually happened to fall in the middle of my range. With fixed-DC skill uses and taking 10, generally you are able to know 'I can do these things' and 'I can't do these things yet'.
I've been playing this game for 14 years. I have yet to experience an issue as such that it becomes an all-the-time thing. The closest I've come is high-epic levels (beyond 30th level). Of all the issues you've brought up, they seem either highly subjective and yes, I've run more than a few 'heist' type scenarios with varying levels of success. As far as I can determine, none of your issues seem to be with the skill system at all, but rather with optimization by players and bonus stacking and an inability to deal with these issues with the tools you have. Perhaps this assertion is because I don't have your whole story but that is my current assessment.


I would say that a fight where you just toss down 20 orcs is more likely to be interesting than, say, a dungeon where you toss down 20 of the same trap. And its certainly more interesting than a situation where you can roll Diplomacy vs the king and either 'convince him' or 'fail to convince him'.
This is all highly subjective.


Why not? I'm basically proposing a fundamental change to what the skills mean. In such a system, 'Spot' is not something that measures how good you are at penetrating cover, but rather comprises a set of proactive abilities that have to do with perception.

For example, perhaps Spot lets you designate a certain number of squares as 'under direct observation', and one cannot Stealth through those squares (or one burns cover at a faster rate).

The result is that it isn't a 'chance of X or Y', but rather an application of one tactical ability against another. The question becomes 'can you cross the room with the Stealth you have left?'/'can the spotters arrange observed zones to prevent you?' instead of 'who rolls better?'
This system causes more problems than it solves - particularly in terms of introducing needless complexity, disassociating game mechanics (because you can 'run out' of the ability to use stealth - which is patently absurd) and frankly, this doesn't seem to solve any problems with the current skill system. It's just a change for the sake of change.


This text means you can search 'by eye' since you can search things out of reach. If you can search by eye, then there is no chance of setting off the trap. Furthermore, nowhere in the rules text for Search does it say that a failed check sets off the trap.
First, the quote you provided said nothing of the sort.
Second, some traps make search 'by eye' impossible. All traps have a possibility of failure (they all list a search DCs and provide consequences for failing to notice said trap).
I don't see how this could possibly be a point of contention. It is against the rules to allow someone to take 20 or take 10 to search for traps and if you do find it, then disarming it has the exact same consequence.


Furthermore, Search is listed as a 'common take 20 skill' on p65 of the PHB.
... because not everything you can search for is going to be a trap. Taking 20 to search for a stapler in an empty room doesn't mean you get that 20 against a trap in the same room.

NichG
2014-02-06, 08:21 AM
You can justify it however you wish, but it still creates problems both mechanically by increasing relative complexity with exception-based rulings modified by other specific rules in other specific situations and by transforming the skill into a metagaming construct where the player 'activates' stealth with a built in rule that makes it impossible to do so after X amount of time - essentially making long-term uses of the skill impossible.

This is all fine by me. I don't mind things being complex, I don't mind it being impossible to stand in front of a bunch of troops in Stealth mode for 3 days straight without being noticed, and I don't mind the players having to decide 'okay, I will now use X ability' (and actually, thats far better than 'go-fish' style challenges where the players just make their character present and the DM asks for a check or sequence of checks passively)


WotC already implemented something like this with a lot of its expanded material, particularly with knowledge checks on a lot of their newer material before 3.5e was replaced by 4th (and they may have continued that tradition with 4th, but I can't say for certain given that I've seen very little of 4th's material past the first PHB.) I'm familiar with the concept but I don't see what this has to do with your previous statements regarding skills. I've reviewed our previous posts and this seems rather out of the blue.

The point is to contrast mechanics where there is truly a range of possible outcomes, versus mechanics where all that changes is the percentage success/failure rate but the outcomes themselves are binary.

Binary outcome: Here is a locked door. You need to roll a 15 to pick the lock. If you succeed, the door is unlocked. If you fail, you cannot pick this lock ever. In fact, even if you have a very convoluted way to get to the binary outcome, so long as there are no true decision branches along the way, its still a binary outcome. For example, this version of Open Locks is still binary:

- If you beat the DC, the door is unlocked.
- If you fail by less than 10, the door is still locked but you can try again
- If you fail by 10 or more, the door is still locked but you cannot try to pick it again (though someone else could)
- If you roll a natural 1, the door is jammed and no one can pick it.

The reason this is still binary is that the party's interaction with the door (assuming Open Locks is the only vehicle for that interaction) can be reduced to a series of Open Locks checks starting with the most-skilled party member and then going down the line. I can, before the entire resolution process begins, put all the numbers into a computer and tell you what the net chance of the party managing to opening the door is. There are no decision branches along the way, so I can reduce the entire exercise into a single probability.

If on the other hand you had something as simple as 'failures consume a set of lockpicks' then it becomes slightly less binary - now there is a somewhat meaningful decision of whether its worth the risk of running out of lockpicks that might be needed later before a re-supply is possible in order to open this door. Of course, if lockpicks are cheap and light then the party can just buy more lockpicks than they'll ever need, and the mechanic is reduced once again to a binary mechanic.



Okay... you need to define what a 'scenario' is in terms of your arguments because 4th edition "fixed" this by making skills either heavily combat-oriented. All of your "roll-free" examples of stealth in our earlier posts were all short-term/short range "daily" uses where you always fail after a certain number of rounds of using a particular skill because of the apparently enormous problem of being able to solve an entire stealth mission on a single check. Perhaps I'm mischaracterizing your arguments since it's been an entire month and a half since we last spoke on this topic, but even if we used one of the many diplomacy fixes (both Rich's fix and the one on Justin Alexander's blog, which is a modification of Rich's fix) diplomacy can still "solve" a scenario by virtue of doing exactly what you'd expect someone skilled in diplomacy to do.

The 'many diplomacy fixes' all miss the point of fixing diplomacy, so I agree that those fixes don't actually do the job. For reference, here is how I'd implement the diplomacy skill (spoilered for length):


- You can make a DC 10 Diplomacy check to raise or lower your apparent social status by one level (where the levels are Criminal, Commoner, Middle Class, Upper Class, Nobility). You can make a DC 20 Diplomacy check to raise/lower it by 2 levels, DC 30 for 3, etc. On a failure, your true social status is markedly apparent and whomever you're dealing with is aware that you tried to conceal it.

It is not necessarily the case that you must appear to be Nobility in order to speak with Nobility - this is for situations where there are more stringent requirements, such as wanting to take a seat in governmental meetings, go to the celebrations of nobility, mingle with servants without seeming out of place, etc.

- You can make a DC 15 Diplomacy check to determine without directly asking whether or not a particular trade or deal would be accepted. If you hit DC 20, you also know if you could get away with asking for more. If you hit DC 25, you also know what the most important thing among the terms is for the opposing side. This can be used until the check is failed, at which point it cannot be used against the same people until a new scene/social encounter.

- You can make a DC 15 Diplomacy check to find a guide or useful contact in a strange town. +10 to the DC if you don't speak the local language. +10 to the DC if the place is hostile to you. Can be tried once per location per week.

- You can make a DC 20 Diplomacy check to identify taboos or particular quirks that could sour interactions with a single NPC (attempt once per scene). This will tell you if, e.g., he will fly into a rage if you are too polite, but will respect you if you're rude, and things of that nature.

- You can make a DC 20 Diplomacy check to 'take back' something that you just said (+10 to DC if it wasn't you who said it, but they can always choose to repeat themselves). The DC increases by 10 every time you use this ability in the same social encounter/scene.

- You can make a Diplomacy check opposed by Bluff to detect 'traps' in a deal or negotiation (for example, a deal with a demon that doesn't preclude the demon killing you upon the conclusion of the deal).

- You can make a Diplomacy check to create a 'sanction' against the violation of a deal. The severity of the sanction depends on the DC you hit. At DC 20, the sanction involves the loss of the other side of the deal (e.g. if you betray us during an exchange of property, you don't get the goods either). At DC 30, the sanction takes the form of a loss of property comparable to the value of the deal. At DC 40, it can also involve a loss of status. At DC 50, it can involve personal peril. This is not a magical effect, and you do not have complete control of the form, but rather it represents an awareness of ways to create deals between untrustworthy sides (similar to how an experienced negotiator would run a hostage exchange - there are just some standard techniques which help keep both sides honest).

- You can make a DC 40 Diplomacy check to discover a common point between opposed sides during negotiation - something that you can push on to try to create peace. Similarly, its a DC 40 check to discover a piece of blackmail material that you can use against an opponent in a negotiation. This can be attempted once on a given set of parties/people (though a new check can be made after a year's time, as people's situations/fortunes may have changed).

- You can make a DC 50 Diplomacy check to guarantee your personal safety following a negotiation, regardless of the outcome (+20 to the DC to protect additional people travelling with you). If negotiations break down, the leaders of the opposing sides will command to capture you rather than kill you, at least for the one scene. After the scene has passed, you can still be executed/etc, and they can attack you in the future. If you yourself use force against a side in the following fight, you shed the benefit of this protection (at DC 80, you can use nonlethal force in the fight without shedding this protection). This doesn't work on mindless creatures, or if the situation is hostile at first contact (e.g. brigands ambush you).


Yes, this is more complicated than 'roll Diplomacy to get them to accept a deal you propose', but I think its also much more interesting strategically. Since I'm interested in having large sections of the game time be dedicated to interacting with NPCs socially/in negotiation, then it seems to me that the options should be as rich as the sorts of options you have in a combat (which is the other large part of the game). If you can Grapple or Disarm or Trip or Attack or Full Attack or double move or take AoOs or five foot steps (not to even get started on class abilities, spells, maneuvers, etc), why not have a diplomacy system where you can make proposals and find information and take back what you said and so on, as well?



Further, your #3 example is an absolutely atrocious way to handle a game.

I agree completely. Thats why it (and example #2) are listed in my post as 'examples of what I do not want', not 'examples of what I want'. The 'constraint' that the game labors under is that it must be interesting - there must be risk, decisions must be relevant, etc. When that constraint comes in conflict with the system, then that can force some bad dynamics into existence as the DM tries to resolve the conflict.

Thats why its best to design the system so that the 'failure modes' aren't obnoxious.


While I can't deny that there are far worse abuses in the game than an 80 AC or high stealth scores, but if your need to fix the system stems from an inability to challenge a player character's most powerful skill or ability (stealth with perception and AC with attack bonus) like complaining that the fire immune red dragon disciple is broken because you can't make fire abilities hot enough or damaging enough to hurt him. That's what I hear when you say things like that because the balance issues that may be behind these problems are more complex than that.


The issue is when single abilities, taken to extremes, can become capable of single-handedly resolving large sections of scenarios. For example, its perfectly possible to run a campaign where someone has the power 'I cannot die' (not 'I cannot be harmed', mind you), and have it still be interesting. That ability, while potent, doesn't actually resolve all that many scenarios - the player can be supreme in that one particular direction without actually interfering with the ability of the DM to make the game interesting.

On the other hand, it would be very hard to run a campaign where someone has the power 'Nothing can be altered if I do not permit it to be altered'. It just shuts down too many avenues to create interesting conflict. Could it be done? Probably, but you'd have to build the entire campaign around that one character. Heck, I'd actually be willing to take that on, if I knew ahead of time 'this is going to be the campaign', but I'd be very leery of allowing that power to emerge dynamically from character building in the midst of a campaign not designed for it.

Stealth and AC are somewhere between these two extremes. Stealth is more of a problem than AC.



I'm not saying that over-inflated skills aren't a problem - the diplomancer builds are excellent examples of this - what I am saying is that the problem and the solution to that problem is because players CAN get those bonuses but rather the problem is HOW and that has nothing to do with the skills themselves.


If you recall, my issue with your original suggestion was that it doesn't actually prevent ridiculous bonus stacking where more of the bonus comes from external factors than internal ones.

That said, I don't really mind players being able to optimize. Players enjoy it, so let them have their fun! What I do mind is when that optimization destabilizes the campaign (or makes it too hard to run), and when that optimization interferes with other players' fun (such as when someone who put full ranks into a skill for 20 levels gets outshone in their primary skill by a cleric with no investment in the skill using magical buffs and gear).



You say that no single roll or sequence of rolls determines a combat but then go on to cite that "if a wizard fails his save, it sucks but the party can plan around it, but if the party all fails their save, then it's a different" ~ all of these things require a roll and sequence of rolls, respectively and both scenarios radically alter the way combat can play out. You seem to have made my argument for me.


This is the phenomenon of rocket tag. This is precisely why having immunity to Death Effects is critical at high levels. By the time an enemy can throw a Wail of the Banshee at the party, no one should have to actually roll the save.

This is basically what I mean about D&D combat - its not about rolling dice and seeing how well you did, its about making choices (mostly before the fight, which is not something I really like about it) that make as many rolls as possible into foregone conclusions. Because 'I cannot be killed by this' is not hard to achieve, and its much better than 'I have a 50% chance of being killed before I get an action'. In fact, its much much easier to get 'I cannot be killed by this' than to change that 50% chance to a 5%.

If I'm playing a wizard, the things that matter are what I prepared today, what feats I have, and what spells I choose to use. While I could choose to use a method that relies on a die roll, I also have the choice to use many methods that don't. Web, solid fog, maze, etc. This is even true for non-casters - while I could decide to trust my fate to the dice and let a dragon full attack me, if I can kite the dragon then the ability to make that decision (and me having the necessary build elements to pull it off) has far more impact on the outcome of the fight than any particular roll or set of rolls. Over the course of the 8 or whatever rolls in a dragon full attack, the outcome is always going to be roughly average - if I stand there and take it, I'm paying the 120 +/- 20hp of damage or whatever it comes out to be.



I've been playing this game for 14 years. I have yet to experience an issue as such that it becomes an all-the-time thing. The closest I've come is high-epic levels (beyond 30th level). Of all the issues you've brought up, they seem either highly subjective and yes, I've run more than a few 'heist' type scenarios with varying levels of success. As far as I can determine, none of your issues seem to be with the skill system at all, but rather with optimization by players and bonus stacking and an inability to deal with these issues with the tools you have. Perhaps this assertion is because I don't have your whole story but that is my current assessment.

This is all highly subjective.


We're talking about entertainment here. Of course its subjective. But that doesn't make it any less valid, or make it any less consistent with the base of players I've played with and what seems to make for a fun game versus what seems to turn into a slog or a tedious game.



This system causes more problems than it solves - particularly in terms of introducing needless complexity, disassociating game mechanics (because you can 'run out' of the ability to use stealth - which is patently absurd) and frankly, this doesn't seem to solve any problems with the current skill system. It's just a change for the sake of change.


I'm not really afraid of complexity - we're talking about D&D 3.5 here. And its not really all that complex anyhow, compared to most of the other stuff in the system. Can you really say with a straight face that this is more complex than, say, Incarnum? Or Psionics? Or Tome of Battle? Or Truenaming? Or even grappling?

And as for problems with the current skill system, you're taking this one proposed change in a void. Keep in mind, this particular side-discussion originated from the comment on the dynamic of skill-vs-counter-skill. It patently solves that, by removing the need to invest in any 'counter-skills' in order to remain relevant. Counter-skills are indeed a problem with the skill system, and this directly solves it by removing them as a concept and replacing those skills with 'proactive' things.



First, the quote you provided said nothing of the sort.
Second, some traps make search 'by eye' impossible. All traps have a possibility of failure (they all list a search DCs and provide consequences for failing to notice said trap).
I don't see how this could possibly be a point of contention. It is against the rules to allow someone to take 20 or take 10 to search for traps and if you do find it, then disarming it has the exact same consequence.


Actually, there aren't 'consequences for failing to notice a trap' listed on traps. Check them out. A trap entry looks like:



Phantasmal Killer Trap
CR 5; magic device; proximity trigger (alarm covering the entire room); automatic reset; spell effect (phantasmal killer, 7th-level wizard, DC 16 Will save for disbelief and DC 16 Fort save for partial effect); Search DC 29; Disable Device DC 29. Cost: 14,000 gp, 1,120 XP.


The only consequences are for actually performing the triggering action, whatever that may be (in this case, entering the room). If I say 'I sit here and study the 10ft square in front of me' from the hallway outside of the room and fail the Search check, that does not set off the trap. If I afterwards say 'hm, better not chance it' and leave, then there were no consequences. If I continue to study that 10ft square, there are also no consequences for repeating the check. I can in fact 'take 20' by actually just searching it 20 (or 40, or 100) times.

And if I go into the room and roll a Search check, I've already triggered it, regardless of my check result. By construction, I must be able to search for it from outside, or there is no way to find/disable it without triggering it.

Again though, I think this discussion (about Take 20 on traps) is pointless, because its entirely a consequence of 'what RAW says'. If you want to run it so that you get one Search check on a given trap, that is absolutely a sensible thing to do and it resolves a lot of the inherent problems in the existing system. But, whether I like it or not, RAW lets you take 20 on Search checks against traps - thats not a statement of personal preference for how I like the game to run, or a belief about how the game should run, its just an observation about the text thats in the PHB/DMG/SRD.

Vadskye
2014-02-06, 07:59 PM
Neoxenok, the Alexandrian article you posted was good, and got me thinking about group skill checks, which Rise has so far ignored. This is what I came up with:


Group Skill Checks

When multiple characters are trying to use the same skill simultaneously, they may be able to work together. Most skills can be done as a group skill check, where the more skilled characters assist the less skilled characters and work together to find the best result. There are two kinds of group skill checks.

Collaborative Checks: When making a collaborative skill check, each member of the group gets their own result. Collaborative checks might include a group of scouts sneaking up on an enemy camp, a group of adventurers climbing a cliff, or a group of spies lying about their true allegiances.

When making a collaborative check, the group must choose a leader before making the check. Each member of the group can make the check using the higher of their skill ranks and half the leader's skill ranks. Other modifiers apply normally.

The group leader must remain in a position to help the other members of the group for the group members to gain this benefit. For example, if a group is making a collaborative check to leap across a chasm, the leader must jump last. If the group is making a collaborative Stealth check, the leader must remain adjacent to the other members of the group to correct their mistakes quietly. The exact circumstances depend on the situation.

Collective Checks: The group works together to get a single result. Collective checks might include a group of diplomats persuading a noble to go to war, a group of medics tending to a dying warrior, or a group of scouts keeping watch for enemy attacks.

When making a collective check, the group simply uses the highest result from any character making the check.

Making Group Skill Checks: A group skill check is not always possible. If the whole group is leaping over a chasm at once to escape a dragon, there is not enough time to designate a leader and have them aid the others to make a collaborative check. In general, a group skill check is only possible if the group has at least five rounds to work together, though this time may vary widely depending on the situation and the skill being used.

These are very simple mechanics, but I think they capture group skill checks nicely, provided the bonuses don't get ludicrously high (since collaborative checks rely on the existence of a significant RNG to be useful). Curious what y'all think.

Edit: Also I agree with NichG on basically everything. Your analysis of how any Open Lock check is a binary outcome regardless of threshold systems makes me question how I have been thinking about skills.

Neoxenok
2014-02-08, 05:24 PM
NichG -

Increased complexity, disassociated mechanics, and things that make no sense within an otherwise sensible game world (such as 4e's gross violations of Euclidean geometry and normal space or 3.5e's drowning rules being able to heal you to -1 from a more damaged state) with even a slight and tenuous relationship to real world physics are all fine when talking about game mechanics for any particular game but I'm of the mind of reducing or eliminating such things for the same reasons that several game mechanics in 4th edition fails.

It's not that I don't like your idea, but it's just not the direction I would go (at least in totality,) at least for my ideal version of the game for reasons I've already brought up. We'll just have to agree to disagree. I just don't think your solution will solve the problems of scenario resolution and your solutions only limit what skills can do - it doesn't expand them. It turns a binary result into a monomial.

I find it would just be easier to fix the stacking rules for skills to eliminate the rules-legal ways to get infinite bonuses and keep other things open-ended and let the DM decide how many apprentices or other outside sources are capable of granting circumstance modifiers so I don't have to write a version of the rules that would require me to write a multi-volume book that could fill a freight train just to describe all the ways skills do and don't work in every possible circumstance just so that one player can't tell his DM that "the rules don't say I can so therefore I get XXX."

... speaking of which...

Searching and Traps:
Generally speaking, if your defense of your position is "the rules don't say that I can't take 20 to search for traps therefore I can take 20 and always find any traps equal to 20 + my search modifier" then I need to just stop you right there.

... I'm honestly at a loss as to where to start here to explain why this is wrong and I'm not saying this to be snide - I just want us to come to an understanding with one anther.


Actually, there aren't 'consequences for failing to notice a trap' listed on traps. Check them out.
Yes there is. The trap has a proximity trigger that not rolling a high enough number on a search/perception skill check would fail to detect. Whether it failed to detect the trap itself or the edge of its detection proximity, failure either means he simply failed to see it and searched elsewhere or went through the proximity as a part of the "take 20" action, thus either triggering the trap immediately by tripping the wire, stepping on the pressure plate, or whatever in the natural process of searching each 5ft-by-5ft area or nothing happens.

So, in one sense, you're right in that searching for a trap, in and of itself, does not have an immediate effect upon failure.

*However*, the searcher still failed to detect the trap. Either he/she or some other hapless victim will trigger the trap as a result of not knowing it's there.

That's the entire purpose of traps and that is a direct consequence of not finding said trap. As such, triggering the trap is a consequence of failing the search check. Thus, you cannot take ten or twenty.

This isn't saying that your interpretation of the search rules is invalid but let's look at this another way.

My interpretation is an entirely valid interpretation of the game rules. It is the one typically assumed by published adventures and several places in the core rules given the number of instances in either 3rd, 3.5e, 4th, and pathfinder all assume that you have to roll to search to find a trap. Given the exceptionally open nature of what can constitute a trap, it's also entirely reasonable the way the writers of the PHB/DMG wrote the search and trap rules. Finally, being able to detect a trap automatically with no threat from the trap itself completely defeats the purpose of having a trap at all.

Yours is valid too in the sense that the rules don't explicitly say that you can't, but aside from the traps that have a search DC too high for even a nat 20 would detect would ultimately make traps completely pointless rather than any kind of interesting. Even if yours is valid, you've admitted that my interpretation is the much more sensible one... and there's a reason for that.

Now, I really hope we're done with that, because if you still disagree with me, then we're just going to have to agree to disagree because I doubt we'll see eye-to-eye on that anytime soon.


If you recall, my issue with your original suggestion was that it doesn't actually prevent ridiculous bonus stacking where more of the bonus comes from external factors than internal ones.
My original suggestion was designed to prevent casters from using cheap magic items and spells to gain overwhelmingly large bonuses that are as effective or better than investing full skill ranks as well as any infinite or other over-large bonus stacking.
Preventing players from optimizing and using as many sources as possible to maximize one or more skills was not a design goal.

I recall that being your issue, but we moved into the whole 'binary/why use d20 rolls at all' tangent before you elaborated, though we seem to have done a discussion in regard to whether or not skill bonuses should exist in spells at all. I was fine with skill-boosting spells as a general principle and you were in favor of eliminating any relationship between spells and skills.

Vadskye -

I tend to find the Alexandrian an excellent read just in general. He seems to have a lot of good ideas. He also wrote up his own version of the 3.5 rules, but he wasn't able to publish it and he had a lot of good ideas go into that as well. He has it available for free as a PDF called legends and labyrinths. I have several references offhand (including Rise) as I chip away at this project.

I came up with something similar - pick a "leader" and his skill check effects the group with one roll instead of 30, but I had there be penalties given the extra number of people and a few other circumstantial things (like the leader of an escape attempt would use his +30 stealth skill, -5 for there being 5 additional escapees , -2 because one of them is wearing a chain shirt.

Just to note to anyone that cares, right now, my work on skills was borked when my flash drive mysteriously formatted and I had to restart. I decided to work on movement, environment, weather, and terrain first, followed by combat, then skills.

NichG
2014-02-08, 07:33 PM
Generally speaking, if your defense of your position is "the rules don't say that I can't take 20 to search for traps therefore I can take 20 and always find any traps equal to 20 + my search modifier" then I need to just stop you right there.

... I'm honestly at a loss as to where to start here to explain why this is wrong and I'm not saying this to be snide - I just want us to come to an understanding with one anther.


I think the easiest way to look at it would be an 'example of play'.



There is a trap on a chest in front of the PC whose trigger is the opening of the chest.

Player: I search the chest for traps from 5ft away and without touching it. (explicitly permitted use of Search)
DM: (rolls secret Search check). You don't find anything
Player: Okay, I search it again.


Since failing the check does not directly cause the trap to go off if the method of search (explicitly permitted by the rules) would not set off a trap's particular trigger, the sequence of play lacks a way to enforce the consequence of failure by RAW.

The DM could say 'you search the chest by opening it' but this directly contravenes the player's stated action. The DM could say 'you cannot search the chest without opening it' but this contravenes permitted uses of Search by RAW. The DM could say 'the trap goes off because you looked at it funny' but that is sort of ridiculous. The DM could also say 'now that you have not found a trap, your character must open the chest without hesitation' but thats certainly not supported by the rules, and it's generally pretty bad form for the DM to take control of a player's character like that.

Outside of RAW, the solution that I'd use is that if you search the same area twice, you automatically get the same result as before.


Finally, being able to detect a trap automatically with no threat from the trap itself completely defeats the purpose of having a trap at all.

Yours is valid too in the sense that the rules don't explicitly say that you can't, but aside from the traps that have a search DC too high for even a nat 20 would detect would ultimately make traps completely pointless rather than any kind of interesting. Even if yours is valid, you've admitted that my interpretation is the much more sensible one... and there's a reason for that.


For me, its pretty clear that RAW and sensibility do not go hand in hand. You brought up drown-healing earlier in your post. In this context, RAW provides a good example of what not to do, precisely because it does in fact make traps pointless rather than any kind of interesting. Thats why I brought up taking 20 on things like trapfinding as something that needed to be taken into account when fixing the skills, and more generally as an example of a way in which different standards for different sorts of checks can act as gotchas for DMs who aren't very experienced with the system.

Basically, if you can never 'retry' a skill once a check is made, then every skill can be understood from the point of view of the '10.5 is average on the roll' analysis. If some skills can be retried over and over, while other skills are one-offs, then a DC 15 for the former and a DC 15 for the latter are actually very different difficulties. The DC 15 for the former is more like a DC 5 for the latter. Its a way in which the system can basically make things hard for the DM to do a good job with, so its better to design things to minimize that sort of thing. At the same time, this can creep in in the other direction in situations that force lots of rolling (things like the Swim rules, where you have to roll a check every round). There, a DC 15 is more like a DC 25, because eventually you'll roll low. Taking 10 dramatically changes that structure, since it basically removes that effect, so these are all things to keep in mind.



My original suggestion was designed to prevent casters from using cheap magic items and spells to gain overwhelmingly large bonuses that are as effective or better than investing full skill ranks as well as any infinite or other over-large bonus stacking. Preventing players from optimizing and using as many sources as possible to maximize one or more skills was not a design goal.


Well, my suggestion isn't about 'preventing optimization' so much as its about ensuring that the expenditure of long-term character resources is meaningful and in general is more meaningful than the expenditure of short-term resources. E.g. spending a skill point should (I feel) get you more than spending a spell slot, or spending 1000gp, because skill points are a fairly difficult to reverse choice made during character advancement, whereas spell slots are a daily resource and gold comes and goes.

An alternative way to deal with it would be to make skills into a short-term resource, and have it so that skill points can be completely re-assigned every week or something like that. Then the choice is 'spend a spell slot or temporarily pull some skill points from another skill?', which is more comparable I think.



I recall that being your issue, but we moved into the whole 'binary/why use d20 rolls at all' tangent before you elaborated, though we seem to have done a discussion in regard to whether or not skill bonuses should exist in spells at all. I was fine with skill-boosting spells as a general principle and you were in favor of eliminating any relationship between spells and skills.


I think this accurately summarizes the discussion and my position, yes.

Neoxenok
2014-02-17, 04:39 AM
I think the easiest way to look at it would be an 'example of play'.
The only thing you've proven is that it is possible to design traps to be uninteresting and one-note and then blame the game rules for creative failure. You certainly could make every trap in a dungeon to offer no danger to anyone enough that any rogue could search for them without touching them but then again - why in the howling winds of the doom wastes would you willingly do that?

Traps are open-ended things that can be made in any number of ways and can be complex enough to be an entire encounter for an entire party to figure out or a simple device that punishes the rogue for being too eager to open a strongbox.


You brought up drown-healing earlier in your post. In this context, RAW provides a good example of what not to do, precisely because it does in fact make traps pointless rather than any kind of interesting. Thats why I brought up taking 20 on things like trapfinding as something that needed to be taken into account when fixing the skills, and more generally as an example of a way in which different standards for different sorts of checks can act as gotchas for DMs who aren't very experienced with the system.
The difference between using search to search for traps and the drowning rules is that the drowning rules are actually written that way and you can't use them as they are written to avoid the deficiency that's actually written into that rule. Your use of search can be avoided entirely without changing any of the written search or trap rules by simply using those rules differently. The problem with the drowning rules is written into the book. Your problem with search was created entirely by you and others that use it in the same manner.


Well, my suggestion isn't about 'preventing optimization' so much as its about ensuring that the expenditure of long-term character resources is meaningful and in general is more meaningful than the expenditure of short-term resources. E.g. spending a skill point should (I feel) get you more than spending a spell slot, or spending 1000gp, because skill points are a fairly difficult to reverse choice made during character advancement, whereas spell slots are a daily resource and gold comes and goes.
All of your complaints come from the ability of skills to "resolve a scenario" (whatever that means) on the long term and pretty much automatically foil all the 'counter skills' and skill check DCs by getting bonuses far larger than the typical DCs and bonuses of a particular challenge rating.

Your fix attempts to resolve those issues by turning them into a limited resource that can not be countered by means and makes absolutely no sense inside the game world (Mr. expert infiltrator can only hide for X rounds/day regardless of circumstance or sense?). Further, depending on the scenarios involved and the creativity of the player, the scenarios resolved without contest would either just be short-term or it would resolve such longer-term scenarios anyway but now the DM has ZERO recourse.

The way I see it, nothing gets fixed AND it makes other things worse in the process.


An alternative way to deal with it would be to make skills into a short-term resource, and have it so that skill points can be completely re-assigned every week or something like that. Then the choice is 'spend a spell slot or temporarily pull some skill points from another skill?', which is more comparable I think.
My games tended to allow retraining in a manner comparable to the rules in Unearthed Arcana. I don't like the idea of skills being redone so easily.

NichG
2014-02-17, 02:00 PM
The only thing you've proven is that it is possible to design traps to be uninteresting and one-note and then blame the game rules for creative failure. You certainly could make every trap in a dungeon to offer no danger to anyone enough that any rogue could search for them without touching them but then again - why in the howling winds of the doom wastes would you willingly do that?


An argument that a particular set of rules has no problems because a creative DM can get around them is known around here as the Oberoni Fallacy.

I wouldn't willingly run a game by RAW, so I don't have this problem of trying to dance around it to argue 'no, see, my game actually is RAW'. I just say 'no, my game isn't RAW' and move on.

If you want to make all your traps Symbols of X in order to avoid the play scenario I mentioned, then that's up to you. But I think its silly to hobble yourself in that way when you can just move past RAW. You can in fact write rules where the 'trap on the treasure chest' is not something that the Rogue can just take 20 on - I've suggested a few already.

By RAW, touch is not needed for Search. Rather than get all defensive about RAW, just change it and move on.



All of your complaints come from the ability of skills to "resolve a scenario" (whatever that means) on the long term and pretty much automatically foil all the 'counter skills' and skill check DCs by getting bonuses far larger than the typical DCs and bonuses of a particular challenge rating.


No, that's not right. You can set DCs arbitrarily high to balance against the party. There are three particular phenomena that I think are bad:

- Ability at a skill coming from permanent investment is not more significant than ability at a skill coming from temporary effects.

- 'Counter skills' represent a skill-optimization tax at high levels - in order to protect against certain 'auto-win buttons', you have to invest deeply into these counter skills (Spot and Listen, mostly; Sense Motive to a lesser extent). Design-wise, this is poor design since it scales badly if you want to change the number of skills (e.g. adding a new counter-skill requires everyone to shift more of their skill points away from proactive skills; removing a counter-skill means everyone suddenly gets more skill points freed up).

- Skill mechanics in the system are often designed in a way that the outcome of a scenario is highly binary based on a single instance of skill use, rather than a rich outcome of the interaction of different abilities. Compare 'sneaking past the guards' with 'fighting the guards' - the latter is a much richer gameplay experience.



Your fix attempts to resolve those issues by turning them into a limited resource that can not be countered by means and makes absolutely no sense inside the game world (Mr. expert infiltrator can only hide for X rounds/day regardless of circumstance or sense?). Further, depending on the scenarios involved and the creativity of the player, the scenarios resolved without contest would either just be short-term or it would resolve such longer-term scenarios anyway but now the DM has ZERO recourse.

The way I see it, nothing gets fixed AND it makes other things worse in the process.


The DM doesn't really need recourse if the skill abilities are designed in such a way that they don't one-shot scenarios. The idea is basically to dial back the outcomes of skill use so that none of them 'just solve the problem' but so that each of them is a tool towards the solution of the problem. E.g. Stealth doesn't just let you sneak in and out of the compound, avoiding all the guards; it lets you remain hidden at certain critical points during the overall process of sneaking in and out of the compound. It behaves more like a move action in combat - part of the path to victory, but not victory solely by itself.

Also, having skill abilities be designed to succeed like this but not to take total control of the scenario removes the need for counter-skills. Rather than all the scenario design efforts being towards making the player fail in the thing they invested in, the scenario design efforts are aimed at requiring the players to chain their successful uses together in a non-trivial way that takes some effort on their part to figure out and deploy.

E.g. its more like chess, where if you want to make a legal move, you can, and it just happens, but that alone doesn't mean you will win the game. As opposed to a game where you're trying to make moves, and the game has you roll to see whether or not you actually get to do something this turn, and victory is decided by how often you get past the thing constantly trying to make your moves just not happen.

Neoxenok
2014-02-17, 03:04 PM
An argument that a particular set of rules has no problems because a creative DM can get around them is known around here as the Oberoni Fallacy.
I would be committing Oberoni Fallacy if I were stating that you can change the rules through using the idea of "rule 0" which is something that I am in no way doing. I am, in fact, stating the complete opposite - that your problem with the search rules stems from your erroneous assumption that you're not using them as written by using them in the manner that I explained.


By RAW, touch is not needed for Search. Rather than get all defensive about RAW, just change it and move on.
This isn't about being "touchy" or "defensive" about the search rules or any rules for that matter. I'm having this discussion because I find it important to be able to diagnose what problems to fix that that necessitates being able to distinguish problems caused by following the rules, like the drowning rules, and problems caused by interpreting the rules improperly, like your interpretation of searching for traps.

This distinction is subtle but an important one. I could make an entire thread about how 3.5 edition, 4th edition, and to a lesser extent, pathfinder failed in some ways in properly updating their respective systems by focusing on the wrong things in some cases or not fixing certain problems at all. It is necessary to have a good perspective on what works and what doesn't within the context of the actual game rules in a manner that is as objective as possible.


No, that's not right. You can set DCs arbitrarily high to balance against the party.
You certainly could, but that in itself would be a symptom of the underlying problem, now wouldn't it? The rules state that a DC 45 skill check is something that would be virtually impossible for mere mortals to attempt. Higher than that, then we're getting into feats (no pun intended) that can only be performed by gods or godlike mortals beings.
If PCs are hitting DCs in the 70s before level 10, as you hinted at earlier was an issue in former games of yours, then that's a symptom of an underlying fault in the game for several reasons.

The first reason is the ... what I'll call the 'fireball problem' or that when the wizard learns fireball and the DM finds that the wizard is ending encounters too easily with that spell and suddenly all encounters feature fire-resistant or immune creatures to do what the DM thinks will "challenge" the PCs.

The next is that the game has certain expectations as to what characters of a certain level of power should be able to do and if PCs can not only break those expectations but shatter them into another dimension, then we have a problem that should at least be addressed - at least in some nominal fashion.


- Ability at a skill coming from permanent investment is not more significant than ability at a skill coming from temporary effects.
Why does this matter? The game tends to give more powerful effects to ones that only have a temporary duration versus those that affect a character on a permanent or at-will use and this is evident in the design notes of D&D and quite evident in the end product in virtually every product that WotC has produced and not just in "skills vs. other things" but in everything.
We are, however, in agreement that the balance in this nature needs to and should be tweaked in many areas in different ways but I don't see a need to reverse this trend as a general rule of thumb.


- 'Counter skills' represent a skill-optimization tax at high levels - in order to protect against certain 'auto-win buttons', you have to invest deeply into these counter skills (Spot and Listen, mostly; Sense Motive to a lesser extent). Design-wise, this is poor design since it scales badly if you want to change the number of skills (e.g. adding a new counter-skill requires everyone to shift more of their skill points away from proactive skills; removing a counter-skill means everyone suddenly gets more skill points freed up).
Training people to counter other people's training has been present in virtually every RPG I've ever played. On top of that, it's something that is pervasive in real life and in all sorts of fiction and interesting stories wherein - why on the bloody plains of the Eternal Battlefield of Archeron would this be "bad game design" to be represented in the d20 rules? Particularly since you're not "forced" to take any of those skills.


E.g. its more like chess, where if you want to make a legal move, you can, and it just happens, but that alone doesn't mean you will win the game. As opposed to a game where you're trying to make moves, and the game has you roll to see whether or not you actually get to do something this turn, and victory is decided by how often you get past the thing constantly trying to make your moves just not happen.
You've explained this in this way to me several times, but it addresses none of my concerns about your proposed fix.

NichG
2014-02-17, 03:32 PM
I would be committing Oberoni Fallacy if I were stating that you can change the rules through using the idea of "rule 0" which is something that I am in no way doing. I am, in fact, stating the complete opposite - that your problem with the search rules stems from being unable to use them as intended.

Now you're talking about RAI instead of RAW, which is an entirely different beast.


interpretation of searching for traps.

Not an 'interpretation'. Its right there in the rules text, allowing you to search things within 10ft of you. It says nothing about 'touching'.



You certainly could, but that in itself would be a symptom of the underlying problem, now wouldn't it?

Its not really the important symptom though. Whether or not you call a 45 'high' or 'low' is just a matter of labels and scaling of numbers. The problem is not the raw numbers, but rather that the way in which those numbers come about means that its difficult for a character to hold onto 'good at a particular skill' as a niche. E.g. I don't care if everyone is getting 70s in the skills they're trying to be good at. What I care about is if the guy who put max ranks into the skill is getting 30s and the guy with no ranks is getting 40s by use of 'short-term' resources like spell slots and gold.



Why does this matter? The game tends to give more powerful effects to ones that only have a temporary duration versus those that affect a character on a permanent or at-will use and this is evident in the design notes of D&D and quite evident in the end product in virtually every product that WotC has produced and not just in "skills vs. other things" but in everything.
We are, however, in agreement that the balance in this nature needs to and should be tweaked in many areas in different ways but I don't see a need to reverse this trend as a general rule of thumb.


This particular design philosophy is part of what makes casters so dominant, and what makes it hard for 'skill monkey' to be taken seriously as a niche. When short-term resources dominate over long-term investments, then that devalues the decisions underlying the long-term investments.

In D&D, the tendency is for there to be a very small set of meaningful long-term choices, and a lot of 'false choices' or 'trap choices' that basically will become irrelevant in the long term, except for the fact that you didn't pick the right choice when making them. For example, choosing to not be a T1 caster is basically only meaningful in that the T1 casters will be able to do anything you can do at Lv20, but you won't be able to do everything they can do.

If a player is making a choice to devote long-term resources towards something - investing skill ranks, taking a feat, taking a level of a class - then I strongly feel that that choice should be rewarded with them actually getting some degree of persistent ability along those lines that is not easily replaced by things that can be acquired without using long-term resources.



Training people to counter other people's training has been present in virtually every RPG I've ever played. On top of that, it's something that is pervasive in real life and in all sorts of fiction and interesting stories wherein - why on the bloody plains of the Eternal Battlefield of Archeron would this be "bad game design" to be represented in the d20 rules? Particularly since you're not "forced" to take any of those skills.


Realism is not the same thing as 'good game design'. Game design speaks to the dynamics of play and how each player interacts with the game, where the decision branches are, how players are rewarded or punished for choices, how things interact, etc. It has nothing at all to do with making something that looks like someone's particular vision of how the real world works or how fiction works.

One thing about good game design is that it tends to be purposeful and streamlined. Putting options in with the intent that no one take them because they're traps does have a purpose - to basically punish newcomers to the game - but that's not a purpose I would want associated with any game I'd play. If you put that purpose aside, it fails to be streamlined - you're putting in rules that are intended to not get used by anyone taking the game seriously, so you might as well just remove them entirely.

There are many things that exist in fiction or the real world that make for really awful game elements, and that can be for a variety of reasons. I can, for example, write an interesting story that makes use of time travel predestination paradoxes. But because they involve taking agency away from the characters in the story, they don't make for very good game play (unless you do clever things to get around that and give meta-game control of the story to the players).

Many TV series have a single character who is the core protagonist (Dr. Who, for example), but since a tabletop game is supposed to involve a group of friends, few of whom are going to want to be 'the sidekick', something like Dr. Who's dynamic of 'the doctor' and 'the companions' makes for a poor game, unless of course you do something creative to resolve the inequity which again may involve metagame control (like having The Doctor be controlled by committee).

So yes, the best game design might go completely against fictional tropes or reality. That's because the best game design fundamentally respects the fact that you're making a game and puts that first.

Neoxenok
2014-02-17, 10:16 PM
Now you're talking about RAI instead of RAW, which is an entirely different beast.
Yes, but again, my argument is that my interpretation of RAI doesn't violate RAW and you have yet to make the case that that isn't true.


Not an 'interpretation'. Its right there in the rules text, allowing you to search things within 10ft of you. It says nothing about 'touching'.
"You generally must be within 10 feet of the object or surface to be searched." - The Search Skill, PHB 3.5 edition

Why, that MUST mean you can search search for traps without putting yourself in any danger without touching anything that could set off the trap, because all traps are visible enough to only require a set of eyes and ears to find literally any trap ever made and it's right there in the rules. Is that the gist of your argument?

That's the entire "mechanics" line of the search skill and it seems to give a rather open-ended statement as to what the skill does and it definitively shows just how restrictive your interpretation is and how antithetical that doing so can be to even the sort of game you want to run.

It isn't the fault of the game rules that you see things that way.


Its not really the important symptom though. Whether or not you call a 45 'high' or 'low' is just a matter of labels and scaling of numbers. The problem is not the raw numbers, but rather that the way in which those numbers come about means that its difficult for a character to hold onto 'good at a particular skill' as a niche. E.g. I don't care if everyone is getting 70s in the skills they're trying to be good at. What I care about is if the guy who put max ranks into the skill is getting 30s and the guy with no ranks is getting 40s by use of 'short-term' resources like spell slots and gold.
I proposed fixing that and I made what I thought was a very good method of accomplishing that goal but all you stated about my proposed changes is that it "won't work" because I don't like the idea of completely eradicating the core mechanic of skills in favor of something less like skills and more like magic.


This particular design philosophy is part of what makes casters so dominant, and what makes it hard for 'skill monkey' to be taken seriously as a niche. When short-term resources dominate over long-term investments, then that devalues the decisions underlying the long-term investments.
Okay, NichG, you're giving me two separate and contradictory arguments in regard to skills.

On one hand, you're arguing that skills need to be changed into the more short term resources because of the ability to resolve entire game scenarios and any number of other fashions that exemplify that someone with a +70 or whatever bonus to a skill or group of skills can completely roll over what is suppose to constitute a challenge for a group of adventurers.

On the other hand, short term resources like spells and certain magic items make skills completely irrelevant because the guy that invested with the +30 is getting quashed by the guy with the spells and cheap items for the +40.

Therefore, skills need to be more like magic? As in, more limited in scope than skills are now and limited in use like spells but without the ability to "counter" them because being able to use skills to counter other skills is overpowered? I think this needs to be clarified because that sounds positively awful.

Eh... to answer your statement, the problem with casters isn't nearly that simple nor is it rooted in the entire fact that get spells and use magic. A number of spells are problematic for a number of reasons but not all the reasons are the same and being problematic with one thing doesn't mean it's overpowered in every way. Spells that were that problematic are actually somewhat rare, given the total number of spells a wizard can cast. When it comes to skills, most of the problems come from the fact that you can use magic or skills to counter other skills but nothing counters magic except more magic... in many cases.

I don't disagree with your assessment, but again, I don't think your solution is able to fix it. It's a complex problem that requires a much broader change amongst several areas of the game.


Realism is not the same thing as 'good game design'. Game design speaks to the dynamics of play and how each player interacts with the game, where the decision branches are, how players are rewarded or punished for choices, how things interact, etc. It has nothing at all to do with making something that looks like someone's particular vision of how the real world works or how fiction works.

One thing about good game design is that it tends to be purposeful and streamlined. Putting options in with the intent that no one take them because they're traps does have a purpose - to basically punish newcomers to the game - but that's not a purpose I would want associated with any game I'd play. If you put that purpose aside, it fails to be streamlined - you're putting in rules that are intended to not get used by anyone taking the game seriously, so you might as well just remove them entirely.

There are many things that exist in fiction or the real world that make for really awful game elements, and that can be for a variety of reasons. I can, for example, write an interesting story that makes use of time travel predestination paradoxes. But because they involve taking agency away from the characters in the story, they don't make for very good game play (unless you do clever things to get around that and give meta-game control of the story to the players).

Many TV series have a single character who is the core protagonist (Dr. Who, for example), but since a tabletop game is supposed to involve a group of friends, few of whom are going to want to be 'the sidekick', something like Dr. Who's dynamic of 'the doctor' and 'the companions' makes for a poor game, unless of course you do something creative to resolve the inequity which again may involve metagame control (like having The Doctor be controlled by committee).

So yes, the best game design might go completely against fictional tropes or reality. That's because the best game design fundamentally respects the fact that you're making a game and puts that first.
It's true that making things more realistic doesn't mean it's necessarily good game design, but that's kind of a meaningnless statement. The amount or lack of realism is irrelevant to game design but when designing a "roleplaying" game - just like trying to watch a movie or enjoy fiction, requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief.

The more realistic a character is, the more a player can use their suspension of disbelief and "play their role" of the character. D&D is a roleplaying game where the players are characters taking actions within a storyline not unlike other forms of media except the players have much more control than even CRPGs.

As such, it is important in game design for an RPG - particularly of the pen-and-paper variety to give some semblance of realism in the rules because it helps achieve suspension of disbelief. The further you move away from this, the further you move away from the game being an RPG at all - it defeats the purpose of playing an RPG if your character more closely resembles a chess piece than it does a living, breathing entity within a believable world - fantasy, sci-fi, or whatever.

You can certainly ignore realism in game design in many ways - 3.5e is hardly the most realistic game out there but if you approach realism like some loathesome thing to be avoided or antithetical to good game design, then we're not really designing an RPG so much as a war game where you design the individual pieces on a battlefield.

Realism is not the enemy to good game design - especially for P&P RPGs.

NichG
2014-02-17, 11:23 PM
Yes, but again, my argument is that my interpretation of RAI doesn't violate RAW and you have yet to make the case that that isn't true.

"You generally must be within 10 feet of the object or surface to be searched." - The Search Skill, PHB 3.5 edition

Why, that MUST mean you can search search for traps without putting yourself in any danger without touching anything that could set off the trap, because all traps are visible enough to only require a set of eyes and ears to find literally any trap ever made and it's right there in the rules. Is that the gist of your argument?


The other bit of the rules that you're missing is that the process of detecting a trap is defined by a Search check, and does not have additional conditions. In other words, the only difference by the rules between a trap that is in plain sight and a trap that is 'well hidden' is that the Search DC is different. There are no rules that someone who, for example, has no sense of touch cannot detect certain traps - or even someone completely blind!



I proposed fixing that and I made what I thought was a very good method of accomplishing that goal but all you stated about my proposed changes is that it "won't work" because I don't like the idea of completely eradicating the core mechanic of skills in favor of something less like skills and more like magic.


Yes, because in your system someone can still assemble temporary bonuses that are equivalent to being a Lv20 character with max ranks in the skill. So no, it doesn't actually resolve this.



Okay, NichG, you're giving me two separate and contradictory arguments in regard to skills.

On one hand, you're arguing that skills need to be changed into the more short term resources because of the ability to resolve entire game scenarios and any number of other fashions that exemplify that someone with a +70 or whatever bonus to a skill or group of skills can completely roll over what is suppose to constitute a challenge for a group of adventurers.


No, the +70 doesn't matter. It could be +3 or +3000. The problem is that, for skills where this is an issue, either 'you succeed - skip this encounter' or 'you fail - you might as well not have tried'. Game mechanically, thats just not interesting gameplay.

The alternative, which is what I'm proposing, is that no matter what, a skill 'does something' reliably. However, whatever that 'something' is, it's at best only a component in resolving any given challenge, the same way that even something like 'being able to fly' is only a component in defeating a group of enemies, even if it happens to be a deciding component.



On the other hand, short term resources like spells and certain magic items make skills completely irrelevant because the guy that invested with the +30 is getting quashed by the guy with the spells and cheap items for the +40.


Yes.



Therefore, skills need to be more like magic? As in, more limited in scope than skills are now and limited in use like spells but without the ability to "counter" them because being able to use skills to counter other skills is overpowered? I think this needs to be clarified because that sounds positively awful.


'Overpowered' is the opposite of what I want to say. The problem with using skills to counter other skills is that its a tax. Basically, you must invest a certain amount of resources into being able to counter other skills, which means that the net result of you investing in defenses and the opponent investing in offenses is... basically moot. Having taxes like that tends to dissipate the significance of investments on both sides, and it also strongly penalizes those who don't have many resources to spend on proactive stuff in the first place.

A guy with +45 Stealth hiding from a guy with +40 Spot is the same as a guy with +5 Stealth hiding from a guy with +0 Spot. That's just uninteresting.



Eh... to answer your statement, the problem with casters isn't nearly that simple nor is it rooted in the entire fact that get spells and use magic. A number of spells are problematic for a number of reasons but not all the reasons are the same and being problematic with one thing doesn't mean it's overpowered in every way. Spells that were that problematic are actually somewhat rare, given the total number of spells a wizard can cast. When it comes to skills, most of the problems come from the fact that you can use magic or skills to counter other skills but nothing counters magic except more magic... in many cases.

I don't disagree with your assessment, but again, I don't think your solution is able to fix it. It's a complex problem that requires a much broader change amongst several areas of the game.


The point isn't to 'fix magic'. The point is to make sure skills are their own thing, and are distinctive.

Basically, its okay if one option is ridiculously powerful so long as it isn't the only ridiculously powerful option, and so long as the various ridiculously powerful options can't steal eachothers' thunder. Since there are a number of things that spells can do that are very potent on their own, they don't need to steal skills' thunder too, but of course you should also improve skills to have the same 'sorts' of advantages that spells have - just in their own way, and not copyable by spells.



It's true that making things more realistic doesn't mean it's necessarily good game design, but that's kind of a meaningnless statement. The amount or lack of realism is irrelevant to game design but when designing a "roleplaying" game - just like trying to watch a movie or enjoy fiction, requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief.


On the contrary, an obsession with 'realism' can give rise to all sorts of bad game design elements. That is, after all, part of the reason why mundanes are at such a severe disadvantage in D&D - designers shackle them with ideas of what is 'realistic' since we have mundane people in the real world to act as a reference, but since our only reference for the supernatural is myth and fiction, it tends to end up being much more unrestrained.

Another simpler example is having things like extensive hit location charts, complex weapon rules, etc that bog down play to actually resolve. More realistic? Maybe. But it tends to create a very tedious game.



The more realistic a character is, the more a player can use their suspension of disbelief and "play their role" of the character. D&D is a roleplaying game where the players are characters taking actions within a storyline not unlike other forms of media except the players have much more control than even CRPGs.

As such, it is important in game design for an RPG - particularly of the pen-and-paper variety to give some semblance of realism in the rules because it helps achieve suspension of disbelief. The further you move away from this, the further you move away from the game being an RPG at all - it defeats the purpose of playing an RPG if your character more closely resembles a chess piece than it does a living, breathing entity within a believable world - fantasy, sci-fi, or whatever.


The right way to do this is to choose a level of abstraction that allows one to smooth the edges created by necessity by having a game whose rules a group of people have to be able to adjudicate in a reasonable amount of time.

This kind of abstraction is all over the place already. A fighter's attack might actually represent an extensive set of maneuvering, many attempts at a strike, most of which are dodged, until finally there's an opening and the fighter connects. That doesn't make it any less realistic, it just makes the statement 'this detail doesn't matter to the outcome'.

Similarly, in general we don't worry about things like whether or not a given martial strike comes from the right or left side, or how precisely the rogue is sneaking, or how precisely the ranger draws their bow. We could in principle make a very detailed simulation of these things, but its inappropriate for a tabletop game (though actually it can work pretty well in a computer game since the computer can take care of integrating all those details reliably).



You can certainly ignore realism in game design in many ways - 3.5e is hardly the most realistic game out there but if you approach realism like some loathesome thing to be avoided or antithetical to good game design, then we're not really designing an RPG so much as a war game where you design the individual pieces on a battlefield.


I do generally consider that arguments about 'realism' tend to conveniently forget considerations about whether the result is actually fun to play or not. I think there's a sort of tendency for amateur designers to think 'if I make this more realistic, it will be more fun!'. That sort of thing was certainly a trend in professional game design at one point, but it has since become mostly obsolete.

Neoxenok
2014-02-18, 01:09 AM
The other bit of the rules that you're missing is that the process of detecting a trap is defined by a Search check, and does not have additional conditions. In other words, the only difference by the rules between a trap that is in plain sight and a trap that is 'well hidden' is that the Search DC is different. There are no rules that someone who, for example, has no sense of touch cannot detect certain traps - or even someone completely blind!
I didn't miss the fact that search is a necessary component of searching for traps. You're right that search doesn't include all those sub-rules and quite frankly, I'd hate to see the ruleset that does and the person or persons that would play such a game. Still, this does not negate my ultimate point that I've been making about the search skill and searching for traps.


Yes, because in your system someone can still assemble temporary bonuses that are equivalent to being a Lv20 character with max ranks in the skill. So no, it doesn't actually resolve this.
Don't tell me in one instance that bonuses are everything that then in literally the next paragraph say that "the +70 doesn't matter. It could be +3 or +3000." ... and define the actual problem as something that you tell me is completely different - particularly if that thing is something your solution doesn't even solve.

I'm not even convinced that this isn't a solution in search of a problem given that neither I nor anyone that I am aware of has ever taken issue with the core mechanic itself. As such, I am decidedly unprepared to accept it as a problem that is in need of a solution, given everything we've discussed so far.

There is no argument you can make that argues that simply because they exist doesn't mean it's impossible to design the game in such a manner as to remove those abuses and instead of addressing the concepts and fixes I proposed, you simply pointed to the fact that magic exists that can modify and interact with skills therefore it can't possibly work, which is patently absurd.


'Overpowered' is the opposite of what I want to say. The problem with using skills to counter other skills is that its a tax. Basically, you must invest a certain amount of resources into being able to counter other skills, which means that the net result of you investing in defenses and the opponent investing in offenses is... basically moot. Having taxes like that tends to dissipate the significance of investments on both sides, and it also strongly penalizes those who don't have many resources to spend on proactive stuff in the first place.

A guy with +45 Stealth hiding from a guy with +40 Spot is the same as a guy with +5 Stealth hiding from a guy with +0 Spot. That's just uninteresting.
I... disagree with this entire premise on both points.
What dissipates the significance of skill investments is the baseline assumption that the guy with a +40 to spot can only be challenged with that spot score by guys with a hide modifier that requires the guy with the +40 in spot to roll a ten or better on that check in order to feel like he's being challenged - going right back to my earlier points about the wizard with fireball and enemies with fire resistance. It's not interesting because of sloppy adventure design (or rather, application of game rules), not sloppy game rules themselves.


The point isn't to 'fix magic'. The point is to make sure skills are their own thing, and are distinctive.
So how does making skills more like spells make them more distinctive as unique game mechanics?


On the contrary, an obsession with 'realism' can give rise to all sorts of bad game design elements. That is, after all, part of the reason why mundanes are at such a severe disadvantage in D&D - designers shackle them with ideas of what is 'realistic' since we have mundane people in the real world to act as a reference, but since our only reference for the supernatural is myth and fiction, it tends to end up being much more unrestrained.

Another simpler example is having things like extensive hit location charts, complex weapon rules, etc that bog down play to actually resolve. More realistic? Maybe. But it tends to create a very tedious game.
That's absolutely correct as any "obsession" or taking something to its logical extreme is bad game design, regardless of which direction you go or which aspect of the game we're talking about.

That's why the D&D rules work so well - it's just realistic and consistent enough to be believable and abstract and simplified enough to be usable... but we're getting off-track.


I do generally consider that arguments about 'realism' tend to conveniently forget considerations about whether the result is actually fun to play or not. I think there's a sort of tendency for amateur designers to think 'if I make this more realistic, it will be more fun!'. That sort of thing was certainly a trend in professional game design at one point, but it has since become mostly obsolete.
I agree completely. Some of the worst RPGs ever made were made for this reason. I make no illusions about the importance of a certain level of abstraction in gameplay and game design. I've never felt that realism is the goal, but to deny its importance would be... na´ve.

NichG
2014-02-18, 01:09 PM
Don't tell me in one instance that bonuses are everything that then in literally the next paragraph say that "the +70 doesn't matter. It could be +3 or +3000." ... and define the actual problem as something that you tell me is completely different - particularly if that thing is something your solution doesn't even solve.


The problem is where the total value comes from, not how large it is. E.g. both someone who has a +25 through permanent character investments and someone who has a +70 through permanent character investments may or may not be able to make a niche out of that - it depends on whether the system allows someone else to pick up a +25 (or a +70 in the second case) without investing in it at all.

'How large it is' can be fixed just by identifying what the actual range of skill modifiers by level is going to be in practice, and adjusting the rules to take that into account as opposed to whatever the designers thought the range would be. Relative ease of acquisition is harder to fix.



I'm not even convinced that this isn't a solution in search of a problem given that neither I nor anyone that I am aware of has ever taken issue with the core mechanic itself. As such, I am decidedly unprepared to accept it as a problem that is in need of a solution, given everything we've discussed so far.


Then I think your pool of anecdotal evidence is limited. You now know at least one person and their gaming group who does have issue with the core mechanic, so keep that in mind for the future.

In addition, people on these forums fairly regularly comment on:

- Problems with the variance of the d20 and how it behaves
- Skill monkey not being a protected role
- Many skills being outright worthless because they can be completely replaced by a spell
- The problems with Feat taxes (people don't tend to comment on 'skill taxes', but they do comment on skill-starved classes)
- The fact that D&D 3.5 was intentionally built to have 'trap options' like Toughness to reward system mastery.



There is no argument you can make that argues that simply because they exist doesn't mean it's impossible to design the game in such a manner as to remove those abuses and instead of addressing the concepts and fixes I proposed, you simply pointed to the fact that magic exists that can modify and interact with skills therefore it can't possibly work, which is patently absurd.


I can however argue that what you've proposed effectively doesn't address what you're trying to accomplish. You're welcome to actually change your proposal to something that does address it, but - you wanted feedback, my feedback is that your solution doesn't actually do anything.

I'm not prepared to argue that my solution is 'the only way' either, but so far you've mostly focused on attacking it, and not actually proposing something new of your own to address my points.



I... disagree with this entire premise on both points.
What dissipates the significance of skill investments is the baseline assumption that the guy with a +40 to spot can only be challenged with that spot score by guys with a hide modifier that requires the guy with the +40 in spot to roll a ten or better on that check in order to feel like he's being challenged - going right back to my earlier points about the wizard with fireball and enemies with fire resistance. It's not interesting because of sloppy adventure design (or rather, application of game rules), not sloppy game rules themselves.


Then you're ignoring the mathematical truth behind the example to talk about adventure design. The point is that only differences in skill values matter mechanically in opposed rolls. There are two sets of things that you can roll a Skill check based on. One is an opposed roll, which has this particular property. The other is a roll against a fixed DC. The corrolary 'irrelevancy' in the fixed DC case is that if your skill modifier exceeds the DC, it doesn't matter how high it is (+20 and +80 mod against a DC 15 check).

However, I actually think the fixed DCs make for a much better game mechanic because they at least give you the concrete feedback of 'if I am this good at the skill, this is what I can accomplish'. And in essence, when the numbers get very large, the variance becomes irrelevant compared to the mean. So what crystalizes out of the existing skill mechanics is basically the core of my suggestion - that the thing that matters is 'what are the concrete things that having my skill at this level permit me to do?'. And that I'm mostly fine with - if you want to throw in a d20 variance, its messy but its not a huge deal.

The problem is that the opposed checks don't benefit from this structure at all, so the bulk of the new mechanics I proposed are intended to basically resolve the problem of opposed checks.



So how does making skills more like spells make them more distinctive as unique game mechanics?


You're fixating on 'like spells' as if that were the defining aspect. It isn't. The defining aspect is that you pick some set of mechanical possibilities that spells cannot do (by construction, since spells can do pretty much anything right now) and give those mechanical possibilities to the skills.

For example, Divine magic tends to be the only game in town for healing effects (though this got muddied later in D&D 3.5 with things like Synostodweomer). That is, in some sense, a 'protected mechanical possibility'. If you're a user of arcane magic, the meaning of the choice to use arcane instead of divine is somewhat bolstered by the fact that you won't be able to heal, but you'll be able to do certain other things divine magic users cannot. My (broader) suggestion is - make absolutely certain that skills each have a good deal of 'protected mechanics' of this sort.

Otherwise, because spells are a much cheaper investment and have more versatility along-side skills anyhow, players can just use spells and ignore the skills (which means someone who tries to make a skill-monkey character runs the risk of being overshadowed).

Neoxenok
2014-02-22, 09:26 AM
Then I think your pool of anecdotal evidence is limited. You now know at least one person and their gaming group who does have issue with the core mechanic, so keep that in mind for the future.
I've heard of problems and solutions to those problems that are far stranger than yours or your group's. The fact that those issues exist by no means legitimizes them as objective problems in search of a solution.

For example, I've heard of a few individuals in the past that had issues with D&D's reliance on the d20 mechanic and hated the level-based mechanics and sought solutions to transform the game into a 3d6-based system that "levels up" using point-based mechanics to purchase abilities.
All I can help but wonder about someone like that is why bother at all? At that point you may just as well play another game entirely given that those are two definitive mechanics of the dungeons and dragons game and have been for nearly it's entire existence. Perhaps this person loved the content of the game but wanted it built on a skeleton more akin to shadowrun or GURPS but from my perspective, the d20 mechanic and level-based system isn't a problem that requires a solution.

I should also make a note about "skill monkey not being a protected role" since it's something I've seen a few times before and few people seem to have offered workable solutions not unlike your attempts to "fix" that issue and this goes into an issue with warrior-types as well.

It's the same problem people have with the fighter. In the fighter's case, the problem is that all the fighter gets is feats. It gets fighter-only feats (a few of them) sure, but they only offer, at best, a linear increase in power over the level-increases that a fighter gains. Further, everyone gets feats and the feats the fighter takes (say, power attack and cleave) are the exact same feats of the same type for other classes that take the same feats. In this sense, there is nothing special about the fighter.

It's the same concept with the "skill monkey" - everyone gets skills, so if the role is only defined by a matter of degree, then there really was never anything special with the class to begin with.

One of the few things that 4th edition did right was give definitive roles for the classes defined by what their talents do differently than simply how they get the most of a particular group of abilities that anyone gets.


I can however argue that what you've proposed effectively doesn't address what you're trying to accomplish. You're welcome to actually change your proposal to something that does address it, but - you wanted feedback, my feedback is that your solution doesn't actually do anything.

I'm not prepared to argue that my solution is 'the only way' either, but so far you've mostly focused on attacking it, and not actually proposing something new of your own to address my points.
You haven't really given me any reason why my solution wouldn't effectively address what I'm attempting to accomplish. I do appreciate the feedback, however, but "temporary/magic bonuses exist and therefore your fix fails" just isn't a valid point.

I'm sorry I haven't talked about the merits of your solution and there are a number of them. Certain things require a particular purpose and the purpose of your solution doesn't work with what I'm trying to do.

I would be fine with discussing other solutions as a matter of course and the merits and problems with those and I will, in fact, talk about one in particular in my next post.


The problem is that the opposed checks don't benefit from this structure at all, so the bulk of the new mechanics I proposed are intended to basically resolve the problem of opposed checks.
I haven't ignored the point you were making. My point is that if someone has a +XX to a skill, you don't NEED to invent an adventure that puts opposed rolls or skill DCs that are reflective of +XX and the fact that you think this is necessary is causing more of a problem than the problem skill bonus is regardless of whether we're talking about a flat DC or opposed rolls.


Otherwise, because spells are a much cheaper investment and have more versatility along-side skills anyhow, players can just use spells and ignore the skills (which means someone who tries to make a skill-monkey character runs the risk of being overshadowed).
I can't really say that enforcing protected roles is a design goal of mine. I'm more of the opposite mind, really, in terms of breaking down barriers and muddying the waters further than assigning them in their own boxes. As I hinted at earlier in this post, I'd rather protect the roles of the classes with their own unique mechanics instead of feats or skills (neither of which are unique to a class) being more special than spells (which are class features).

NichG
2014-02-22, 11:38 AM
I've heard of problems and solutions to those problems that are far stranger than yours or your group's. The fact that those issues exist by no means legitimizes them as objective problems in search of a solution.

For example, I've heard of a few individuals in the past that had issues with D&D's reliance on the d20 mechanic and hated the level-based mechanics and sought solutions to transform the game into a 3d6-based system that "levels up" using point-based mechanics to purchase abilities.
All I can help but wonder about someone like that is why bother at all? At that point you may just as well play another game entirely given that those are two definitive mechanics of the dungeons and dragons game and have been for nearly it's entire existence. Perhaps this person loved the content of the game but wanted it built on a skeleton more akin to shadowrun or GURPS but from my perspective, the d20 mechanic and level-based system isn't a problem that requires a solution.


On the contrary, this does legitimize those things as problems in search of a solution, but it may just mean that they're not your problems. If there's a subset of people who are intensely bothered by the d20 mechanic and level-based systems, it's worth one's time to examine why exactly that is, and what about those systems is causing this distaste. It may turn out in the end that the goal of the system you're designing is incompatible with what they want out of a system, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a legitimate complaint - just that you're not trying to write a system for them/their tastes.

And there may well be underlying reasons why they have a problem with things that even they're not directly aware of, that could create problems even for your goals in the long run. For example, the d20 complaint: simply saying 'the d20 is iconic' isn't an answer, its basically just choosing to not think about why they have a problem. Looking at their proposed solution, one might conclude that they think the d20 is too swingy - which is in fact a fairly common complaint about lots of D&D subsystems (e.g. crit damage spikes killing characters at low levels, rocket tag at high levels, ...).

In fact, if you look at D&D 3.5 in comparison with older editions, its actually far less swingy than, say, 2e D&D, because the stat mod system became linear. In 2e D&D, a 1st level character might still need an 16 or 17 to hit an average opponent. And in general, D&D is trending away from swinginess (e.g. some of the things in 4ed and D&D Next to regularize success/failure rates for things)

So just saying 'the d20 is iconic, so I will ignore these complaints' means you miss that going to 3d6 may not be the only way to actually answer those complaints (so you could preserve the d20 and still help these people enjoy your game) and furthermore, that there may be other areas in the system where you have to be aware of the particular motivation that created those complaints in the first place .



I should also make a note about "skill monkey not being a protected role" since it's something I've seen a few times before and few people seem to have offered workable solutions not unlike your attempts to "fix" that issue and this goes into an issue with warrior-types as well.

It's the same problem people have with the fighter. In the fighter's case, the problem is that all the fighter gets is feats. It gets fighter-only feats (a few of them) sure, but they only offer, at best, a linear increase in power over the level-increases that a fighter gains. Further, everyone gets feats and the feats the fighter takes (say, power attack and cleave) are the exact same feats of the same type for other classes that take the same feats. In this sense, there is nothing special about the fighter.

It's the same concept with the "skill monkey" - everyone gets skills, so if the role is only defined by a matter of degree, then there really was never anything special with the class to begin with.


The fact that we get new attempts at a 'Fighter Fix' every week should be a strong indicator that there is actually something wrong with the Fighter. Not 'well, I just won't bother because it was hopeless to begin with'. The Tome of Battle classes are generally considered to be a good answer to the way that the Fighter lacks individuality/function.

Similarly, if there is a role that people really want to exist (skill monkey) then it makes sense to direct some design effort into figuring out how to make it happen, rather than just ignoring the complaint.



You haven't really given me any reason why my solution wouldn't effectively address what I'm attempting to accomplish. I do appreciate the feedback, however, but "temporary/magic bonuses exist and therefore your fix fails" just isn't a valid point.


Part of the problem here is that when you started this thread, you didn't actually state specific goals that you had. You asked a broad question 'what do you think is wrong with skills?'. Your proposed fix was a response to my and other people's comments that 'magic makes skills obsolete'. I'm telling you that even within your fix, magic still can make skills obsolete - it doesn't answer the complaint.



I'm sorry I haven't talked about the merits of your solution and there are a number of them. Certain things require a particular purpose and the purpose of your solution doesn't work with what I'm trying to do.

I would be fine with discussing other solutions as a matter of course and the merits and problems with those and I will, in fact, talk about one in particular in my next post.

I haven't ignored the point you were making. My point is that if someone has a +XX to a skill, you don't NEED to invent an adventure that puts opposed rolls or skill DCs that are reflective of +XX and the fact that you think this is necessary is causing more of a problem than the problem skill bonus is regardless of whether we're talking about a flat DC or opposed rolls.


It depends on the skill and the use and the situation. 'One-shot' skills do in general need to have an 'answer' to them built into the adventure, or there's no adventure. Other skills do not (though they should have things that can be achieved specifically at high DCs to make investment in them have a clear return).



I can't really say that enforcing protected roles is a design goal of mine. I'm more of the opposite mind, really, in terms of breaking down barriers and muddying the waters further than assigning them in their own boxes. As I hinted at earlier in this post, I'd rather protect the roles of the classes with their own unique mechanics instead of feats or skills (neither of which are unique to a class) being more special than spells (which are class features).

What I'd suggest then is that your design goals may be better served by getting rid of many/most skills and going back to a system like how thieves worked in earlier editions of D&D.

Neoxenok
2014-02-22, 08:05 PM
On the contrary, this does legitimize those things as problems in search of a solution, but it may just mean that they're not your problems.
The fact that someone has a problem with something, good reasons or no, doesn't make a problem something that warrants attention, particularly if the "problem" is more a matter of taste than some actual game glitch and especially if it's a minority opinion and the opinion requires rewriting the game into a completely different game with a completely different style of gameplay that has its own merits and flaws.

As such, the fact that someone complains about something doesn't in and of itself, make it a legitimate problem that warrants attention. The bar should be set a little higher than that, particularly if it's a matter of taste that disagrees with decades of success of the mechanic and the experience of myself and a majority of others.

After all, if someone came to the homebrew threads with the problem of "the monk is overpowered" (which I've seen happen, btw) do you think that person's opinion would be considered a legitimate problem of the game system (even if they kindly help him or her with this problem) - especially compared to all the people who have been saying the opposite? or the multitudes of people who say nothing because they either don't care or don't find the monk over or under-powered?


So just saying 'the d20 is iconic, so I will ignore these complaints' means you miss that going to 3d6 may not be the only way to actually answer those complaints (so you could preserve the d20 and still help these people enjoy your game) and furthermore, that there may be other areas in the system where you have to be aware of the particular motivation that created those complaints in the first place .
... yes and no.
I would preserve the d20 mechanic because the legitimate complaints aren't significant enough to completely rewrite the game and make it into a completely different game and justify replacing it with something else that has its own legitimate issues. This is doubly true given that such a change would have more to do with someone's personal tastes than some universal flaw that makes the game unplayable or problematic.
Another reason would be because the d20 mechanic is perfectly playable and has decades of gameplay to point to the fact that it does, in fact, work and works well enough that a minority opinion shouldn't spark such a drastic change. This is doubly true given that the fundamental nature of playing the game would be severely altered as a result.
I could keep going, but the ultimate point is that this that I'm not ignoring such complaints "because the d20 is iconic." I have no desire to make change for the sake of change and just because someone makes a complaint about something doesn't automatically give it merit enough to warrant a change based on that complaint.


The fact that we get new attempts at a 'Fighter Fix' every week should be a strong indicator that there is actually something wrong with the Fighter. Not 'well, I just won't bother because it was hopeless to begin with'. The Tome of Battle classes are generally considered to be a good answer to the way that the Fighter lacks individuality/function.

Similarly, if there is a role that people really want to exist (skill monkey) then it makes sense to direct some design effort into figuring out how to make it happen, rather than just ignoring the complaint.
I'm not certain where I disagreed with you on these points.
My ultimate point was that the problem with the fighter and rogue (and their respective roles) is the problem with how they're defined. Pathfinder and 4th did a very good job in the changes they made to the representative classes and the roles they were meant to fill because the only difference between a meat shield and not-meat shield can be boiled down to two feats (power attack and cleave) and a good base attack bonus.

In the case of the skill monkey, it needs to have a better definition than simply being the guy with the most skill points gained each level.

Pathfinder didn't do as much as 4e to reinforce the roles each class plays, but what it did do was allow these classes (particularly the rogue, between the two) is given them unique abilities to allow the rogue to use skills better than someone else that has similarly invested in ranks in the same skills or other unique abilities, related to skills or not.

4th Edition hard-coded the roles of each class into each class and built their class features around it, even allowing for things like the fighter being a fighter without necessarily having the highest attack modifier or most hit points and the rogue to be defined in its role as striker/skill monkey without necessarily being because it has training in the most skills.

I find THOSE solutions to be more compelling than giving skills (or feats, for that matter) some sort of protected status in the rules, particularly given that anyone can still access those mechanics and not, say, a class' features (such as spells).


Part of the problem here is that when you started this thread, you didn't actually state specific goals that you had. You asked a broad question 'what do you think is wrong with skills?'. Your proposed fix was a response to my and other people's comments that 'magic makes skills obsolete'. I'm telling you that even within your fix, magic still can make skills obsolete - it doesn't answer the complaint.
The complaint against my fix didn't evolve beyond "magic that replicates/enhances skills exist, therefore your fix doesn't fix anything".

Given that you yourself couldn't fix this problem without wiping out a massive portion of all magic and magic items in the game without giving skills their "protected status" I didn't find that to be a workable solution and offered a number of changes (or at least a design goal for the future) of changes to magic and magic items (along with projected bonuses of "guy with skill rank investments vs. guy that just uses everything but skill ranks") but given that I still preferred the use of skill ranks/bonuses and you didn't, then that wasn't a workable solution either. Finally, I don't view cross-pollination between one skill set and another (such as invisibility and stealth) to be a problem in and of itself as long as one isn't an inherently better option than the other (if one were, then that would be a good target for future changes.)

So I don't see how this is a result of my inability to come up with a workable solution. The purpose of this thread was open-ended so I could have or at least witness a wider discussion on the role of skills in the game. My own design goals are considerably more narrow than what would likely be most of the solutions and design goals of those here, but that doesn't mean I'm dismissing all ideas. I simply didn't want my own, more narrow focus and limitations to stain the direction of the thread, despite the recent discussions.


It depends on the skill and the use and the situation. 'One-shot' skills do in general need to have an 'answer' to them built into the adventure, or there's no adventure. Other skills do not (though they should have things that can be achieved specifically at high DCs to make investment in them have a clear return).
I have no idea why you feel that's necessary. All it's doing is punishing one or more players to excelling at a particular skill. (Again - like giving all enemies fire resistance as soon as the party wizard learns fireball.) This is only skill-dependent isofar as some skills are strictly overpowered with over-large bonuses (diplomacy and bluff, pretty much) - both of which need to be revised anyway.


What I'd suggest then is that your design goals may be better served by getting rid of many/most skills and going back to a system like how thieves worked in earlier editions of D&D.
I loathe how thieves worked in earlier editions of D&D. I could also list a number of ways that that method is strictly inferior to 3rd edition's skill system. I don't find that to be a workable solution. What do you think my ultimate design goals are that you think that's a solution I'm seeking? I don't think I've discussed my design goals yet.

NichG
2014-02-22, 09:35 PM
After all, if someone came to the homebrew threads with the problem of "the monk is overpowered" (which I've seen happen, btw) do you think that person's opinion would be considered a legitimate problem of the game system (even if they kindly help him or her with this problem) - especially compared to all the people who have been saying the opposite? or the multitudes of people who say nothing because they either don't care or don't find the monk over or under-powered?


It certainly does indicate a problem with the game system, or at least something very important to keep in mind when thinking about that system. What it indicates is that there can be massive differences in play experience given the same set of rules. This need not be the case for every game system, but its certainly the case of 3.5ed D&D. Being unaware of that factor can lead to bad design choices.

What isn't useful however is saying 'this person must be a bad player/DM because they're holding this wrong-headed view' and then ignoring them. Whatever your own opinion on the power-level of the monk, its simple factual user feedback that some people do find that in their own games it is overpowered. That is useful information that one should take into account when addressing game design and presentation in the future.

Does it mean you go and nerf the monk? Maybe not. But maybe it means that when you do your take on the system, you write up some builds to communicate what you think the powerlevel should be. Or maybe you try to narrow the optimization gap, making something more like Tome of Battle where the op-floor and ceiling are pretty close together. Or even maybe you just think to yourself when designing something 'what is the worst way this could be played? what is the best way this could be played?', and that guides your balancing process.



Another reason would be because the d20 mechanic is perfectly playable and has decades of gameplay to point to the fact that it does, in fact, work and works well enough that a minority opinion shouldn't spark such a drastic change. This is doubly true given that the fundamental nature of playing the game would be severely altered as a result.
I could keep going, but the ultimate point is that this that I'm not ignoring such complaints "because the d20 is iconic." I have no desire to make change for the sake of change and just because someone makes a complaint about something doesn't automatically give it merit enough to warrant a change based on that complaint.


This is a pretty stagnant way to go about things, IMO. The various games out there and the philosophy of design behind them have changed drastically maybe every 5 years. Saying 'this worked for 10 years so I won't consider changing it' ignores the fact that this isn't some austere, fixed-in-stone thing that the ancients knew how to do best and we're just permuting things - its a living, changing field of endeavor.



In the case of the skill monkey, it needs to have a better definition than simply being the guy with the most skill points gained each level.


Sure, I think that would be fine if you wanted to do something like that. There are several ways you could do so - for example, something that allows you to have uncapped skill progression in a particular skill. But I do think someone who 'puts all their resources into Jump' should not just be outright outclassed by someone who put no resources into Jump. If that is something that can happen, it means that Jump is a false choice - you aren't helping to define your character at all, you're just throwing away skill points.



I have no idea why you feel that's necessary. All it's doing is punishing one or more players to excelling at a particular skill. (Again - like giving all enemies fire resistance as soon as the party wizard learns fireball.) This is only skill-dependent isofar as some skills are strictly overpowered with over-large bonuses (diplomacy and bluff, pretty much) - both of which need to be revised anyway.


In fact, I do not feel that it is necessary - if you remove 'one-shotting' abilities from skills. Making it un-necessary is the reason why I wish to do so.

Consider something like this: a Lv13 Wizard with a DC 85 all-enemies Save or Die basically makes combat into a non-event (Tainted Scholar could actually do this I believe). That is an example of bad ability design because it forces the DM to either say 'combat is no longer a relevant part of the game' or 'you always encounter enemies with insane saves/immunity to death effects/some sort of counter'. Because the ability is so binary, the DM is forced to choose between two bad options. If on the other hand, it was an effect that killed everything in an area that had fewer than 30 hitpoints left, that would actually not be so bad - the Wizard can use their nuke to clear out mooks or finish someone off, but there's a much smaller set of plausible encounters for that level that the one ability just directly neutralizes. In this case, the DM would not have to respond like that because the ability is not trivializing portions of the game.



I loathe how thieves worked in earlier editions of D&D. I could also list a number of ways that that method is strictly inferior to 3rd edition's skill system. I don't find that to be a workable solution. What do you think my ultimate design goals are that you think that's a solution I'm seeking? I don't think I've discussed my design goals yet.

You've said a lot in the last few posts about how you want to enrich the system of classes and really make that the central thing in the game that is 'protected' or 'distinctive' (at least in the sense of putting most focus on things that are not shared mechanics for every character). Tying certain skill-uses to specific classes helps achieve that goal.

Neoxenok
2014-02-22, 11:42 PM
What isn't useful however is saying 'this person must be a bad player/DM because they're holding this wrong-headed view' and then ignoring them. Whatever your own opinion on the power-level of the monk, its simple factual user feedback that some people do find that in their own games it is overpowered. That is useful information that one should take into account when addressing game design and presentation in the future.
I'm not saying I think it's a good idea to ignore someone's complaints "just because" any reason. Listening to their complaints and the solutions they've come up with is an entirely separate matter from finding that either of them is a legitimate issue or viable solution. After all, D&D is a complex game made by fallible humans so there's always the issue of determining whether or not I'm doing something wrong or I'm doing what I supposed to and the game rules are faulty. If the goal is, after all, to fix the faulty aspects of the game, then need to weed out the former to determine the latter. (Though the former can be a guide in helping with clarification.)

That said, just because someone complains about something doesn't mean it's a problem that needs to be addressed.


This is a pretty stagnant way to go about things, IMO. The various games out there and the philosophy of design behind them have changed drastically maybe every 5 years. Saying 'this worked for 10 years so I won't consider changing it' ignores the fact that this isn't some austere, fixed-in-stone thing that the ancients knew how to do best and we're just permuting things - its a living, changing field of endeavor.
D&D is no different from any other game in many respects - including having a number of defining features where, if you take, alter, or remove those things then that game ceases to be that game. Hell, I've come across a lot of people, myself included, that like 4th edition but don't consider it a "dungeons and dragons" game because of some of the things they altered and they didn't even change the d20 mechanic, but instead altered a number of other, smaller aspects of the game that collectively created a game so different from any of its predecessors, that a large group of people don't even recognize it as the same game anymore.
Regardless of 4th edition, even if you account most if not all the changes made in every major version of the game, most of the fundamental gameplay elements are intact in virtually all versions of the game (including 4th, but that doesn't mean it still isn't controversial for those reasons I mentioned.)

So changing the rules around to fit different styles isn't the same thing as changing the fundamental nature of how you play this game.


Sure, I think that would be fine if you wanted to do something like that. There are several ways you could do so - for example, something that allows you to have uncapped skill progression in a particular skill. But I do think someone who 'puts all their resources into Jump' should not just be outright outclassed by someone who put no resources into Jump. If that is something that can happen, it means that Jump is a false choice - you aren't helping to define your character at all, you're just throwing away skill points.
The problem isn't that jump is a false choice. The problem is overspecialization. If you run into a problem that your super-specialty doesn't cover, then you don't have any thing to do. Gotta diversify that portfolio, even if you do specialize in a thing. It doesn't mean that jump is useless all the time just because flight exists. That's rather silly.


In fact, I do not feel that it is necessary - if you remove 'one-shotting' abilities from skills. Making it un-necessary is the reason why I wish to do so.

Consider something like this: a Lv13 Wizard with a DC 85 all-enemies Save or Die basically makes combat into a non-event (Tainted Scholar could actually do this I believe). That is an example of bad ability design because it forces the DM to either say 'combat is no longer a relevant part of the game' or 'you always encounter enemies with insane saves/immunity to death effects/some sort of counter'. Because the ability is so binary, the DM is forced to choose between two bad options. If on the other hand, it was an effect that killed everything in an area that had fewer than 30 hitpoints left, that would actually not be so bad - the Wizard can use their nuke to clear out mooks or finish someone off, but there's a much smaller set of plausible encounters for that level that the one ability just directly neutralizes. In this case, the DM would not have to respond like that because the ability is not trivializing portions of the game.
EDIT: After re-reading my previous response, I decided to re-do it because I don't feel I properly addressed what was stated. I can see your reasoning based off of your example, but aside from the abuses caused by diplomacy and possibly bluff and/or intimidate, I don't agree that a wizard that can murder a large group of creatures at will with a 95% success rate to be equivalent of being able to succeed 100% of the time with most skills. They simply aren't that powerful, outside of diplomacy, bluff, and intimidate, which themselves need to be addressed individually and goes back to my first criticism of your change to skills.

Were I the DM in this game, I would likely ban tainted scholar (assuming that was the sole cause of the absurd saving throw DC) and nerf the individual spell if it were overpowered for that level as opposed to throwing out the spellcasting system entirely for something akin to 4th ed's style of magic or whatever.


You've said a lot in the last few posts about how you want to enrich the system of classes and really make that the central thing in the game that is 'protected' or 'distinctive' (at least in the sense of putting most focus on things that are not shared mechanics for every character). Tying certain skill-uses to specific classes helps achieve that goal.
Oh. When I think of the previous edition's thief, I tend to think of only having percentiles to succeed on a task. I was thinking of putting the distinctiveness of classes weighted more toward class features. I have no desire to make skills accessible by only a particular class. If anything, I'm going pathfinder's route of making it easier for any class to access any skill and putting much more emphasis on class features.

I'll try to give the shorthand of my (skills related) design goals in the next post as I'm gearing for sleep. My other design goals are highlighted in the link in my sig.

Neoxenok
2014-03-08, 03:57 PM
My own goals with Skills (in no particular order):
The ultimate goal with my overall changes to the d20 system is to keep what I like and what seems to work with this game system. Simplify where possible and avoid adding more complexity to the system where possible. Address the most common issues and problems where possible with the game system as well as my own based largely around my own experiences and common issues that other people experienced with the game.


I need to make it at least nominally compatible with 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder so I can make use of the hundreds of dollars of material I already own, should I choose to.
I want to clean up issues with the DCs of certain tasks and have them make more sense.
Include epic uses of skills and psionic uses of skills in the core game.
I want to consolidate certain skills to eliminate a number of minor and major problems in regard to a multitude of issues (spot and listen become perception and so on.)
I want to eliminate the increased cost of cross-class skills present in 3.5e and 3.0 (doing essentially what pathfinder did) and the "x4" at 1st level. Class skills will get a +3 bonus if a skill rank is invested in that skill (also like pathfinder).
Reinvent several of the charisma skills - particularly bluff, diplomacy, and intimidate in order to eliminate the abuses of those skills.
I also intend to add "endurance" as a skill.


Simplified Skill System
When working on legends and labyrinths, I recommended this to Justin Alexander that would allow him to keep the skill system but simplify it as much as possible. This was my reply:


Classes would still grant "skill points" and have class skills, but the rate at which skill points are granted would be static (not changing due to higher or lower intelligence) and severely reduced in terms of the number you get at every level you gain.
Skills will only have five levels of proficiency: Novice - Proficient - Skilled - Legendary - Godly. One skill point in a skill gives you novice-level proficiency and five gives you godly proficiency. "Class skills" let you count as one higher but you still can't go above "godly".
Having a level of proficiency allows you to complete all lower level tasks without a roll-based contest and you can never perform contests above your rank. All equal-level tasks require an ability check against DC 11. All opposed checks are opposed ability checks.
Spells and other abilities can raise or lower only one skill level, but only ability score increases affect ability checks. Spells like knock can only perform up to a limited proficiency level.
Rank limit is 2 @ level 1, 3 @ level 5, 4 @ level 10, 5 @ level 15.
"DCs" of skills would simply be based on proficiency level.


That's one idea I liked, though it requires substantially more work to flesh out more fully.